Oftentimes at the end of a day caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, instead of the stress winding down, it can ramp up. As the sun goes down, many persons with Alzheimer’s experience agitation, fearfulness and restlessness. This condition, called sundowning, can be stressful for both the caregiver and the person with Alzheimer’s. Aggravations intensify as family members try to keep the senior suffering from sundowning – dementia calm and safe, while trying to get some rest themselves.
One extraordinary program provides a solution: overnight care that offers services specifically to people with sundowning troubles. Described as a slumber party ambiance, aging adults take part in a complete variety of structured activities in a safe environment: music and dancing, puzzles, movies, food preparation, and more – delivering family caregivers a much appreciated chance to rest themselves. “Many family members want to care for relatives with Alzheimer’s at home, but in order to do that, the caregivers themselves have to remain healthy. You cannot stay healthy if you don’t get a good night’s sleep,” explains Ruth Drew of the Alzheimer’s Association.
There are certain steps one can take to try and restore a healthier sleep pattern for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Make sure the senior is exercising daily (early in the day).
- Make sure he or she experiences the sunlight in the morning.
- Have a set routine for meals, bedtime and wake-up time.
- Use a softly lit nightlight at nighttime and keep the bedroom a comfortable temperature.
- Have the senior avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol.
- If the person with Alzheimer’s is restless or unable to sleep, encourage him or her to get out of bed. This way, the bed will be seen as a place for sleeping only.
- Find quiet, calming activities for the senior to engage in during wakeful times, but avoid watching TV.
If none of the alternative approaches are working for the senior, the doctor may recommend a medication, such as:
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Particular antipsychotics (noting that some antipsychotics are related to an increase of stroke and even death in those with dementia – so proceed with caution)
- Drugs to aide in falling and staying asleep
Make sure to look at the risks vs. benefits of any treatment option recommended by the senior’s physician. And, keep in mind that a treatment plan that works now may not be as effective as the disease progresses – and vice versa.
Home Matters, can also help with overnight caregivers in the home to help restore peace to your loved one suffering from sundowning dementia. Contact us to learn more.