Behaviors often increase at the end of the day when symptoms may intensify. This is known as Sundowner’s Syndrome.
Not all patients who have Alzheimer’s or Dementia exhibit symptoms of Sundowners but many experience late day confusion and as a result have irregular sleep schedules. When a parent or a loved one suffers from these irregular sleep patterns due to Sundowners, it is easy to be frustrated and think there is no solution. However there are subtle ways to help improve sleep patterns and then lead to better days and nights for everyone. The following are suggestions to try so your loved one may find a better sleep balance.
Find a Routine
A regular routine is important when diagnosed with Sundowners. Predictability and stability help avoid the anger and frustration felt when experiencing symptoms of Sundowners. Maintaining a routine with routine times and places helps them feel more secure. Incorporate changes slowly when altering a routine so as not to cause disruption.
Avoid Daytime Naps
Daytime napping should be limited if at all possible to help establish an internal clock. Napping while the sun shines lessens the chance of a good night’s sleep.
Encourage Daytime Activity
Encourage those with Sundowners to be active during the daylight hours. Walk, do a puzzle together or enjoy family albums. Do everything possible to keep your loved one active so they hopefully will be calmer after the sun sets.
Avoid Caffeine Late in the Day
Most everyone enjoys a morning cup of coffee but caffeine should be limited later in the day. Caffeine is a stimulant and has a negative effect on those with Sundowners.
Keep Dinner Light
Your loved one may enjoy a big hearty meal at the end of the day, however eating heavily before nighttime may possibly make them uncomfortable. Try to have heavier meals at lunchtime and offer a light dinner or large snack a few hours before bed as an alternative.
Light up the Morning
Sunshine in the morning is known to ease the symptoms of Sundowners. Sunlight is especially helpful in the wintertime when daylight is more limited.
Create a Sense of Calm
Every person with Alzheimer’s or Dementia is different. Pay attention to your loved one’s needs in order to provide a calm environment. They may become irritable when performing certain activities. Try listening to soothing music or simply watching the birds fly to the outside feeder. Creating a peaceful environment eases symptoms of Sundowners and contributes to a good night’s sleep.
Surround Them with Comfort
Everyone has a “go-to” when they are feeling ill or a little blue. This may be a favorite blanket, movie or even chocolate. Surround your loved one with their “feel good” items to help them be more secure.
Create a Safe Space
Soon you may realize no matter how much prep work or preventative measures you have done, your loved one may still feel restless or confused at night. Have their space be comfortable for those evenings they are more agitated.
Discuss questions and concerns regarding symptoms of Sundowner’s Syndrome with a physician.
The Transition Consultants at Bridge to Better Living® are aware of issues facing those with Dementia and Alzheimer’s. If considering an Assisted Living or Memory Assisted Living community please call Bridge to Better Living® for expert assistance in finding the community best fitting your loved one’s needs.