What is sundowning? Basically, it refers to any feelings of confusion, anxiety, and disorientation that occur from dusk, in people who suffer from Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other memory-related illnesses. Based on a study by the National Institute on Aging, sundown syndrome is most likely caused by the interruption of our ‘biological clock’, which informs our bodies of the specific timing for sleeping and eating. Other effects of sundowning can include agitation, aggression, and a lack of ability to understand directions. To minimize sundowning effects, continue reading this article.
Take Care of Basic Needs
Sundowning effects can be more severe when your loved ones are thirsty, hungry, uncomfortable, or bored. As such, do keep a lookout for these symptoms to meet their basic needs throughout the day. This is why adult children or other family members need to visit their loved ones occasionally as these visits provide an opportunity for catching up. In addition, when one feels contented and fulfilled, they’re less likely to show sundowning effects.
At times, sundowning can result from overstimulation of the senses. Some distractions such as too much sunlight and noise can be triggering. To minimize sundowning effects, you can make an effort to close the blinds to block sun rays and cool the room, turn on the lights when it’s dark, and lower the volume for televisions and other digital devices. Do take note that certain household activities such as vacuuming, blowdrying the hair, and blending juices can all be overly stressful for your loved ones.
Create a Soothing Environment
Since distractions can trigger sundowning effects, it’s best to create a home environment that’s relaxing and calming for your loved ones. You can achieve this by ensuring that the house is cool at all times, by playing soft music, decluttering any mess, and using essential oils around the house. Your loved ones should also have a cozy nook where they can unwind and rest.
Create a Familiar Schedule
When your loved ones are unaware of what events are taking place or do not have a consistent schedule, they may experience mood shifts that worsen sundowning effects. It’s essential to create a daily schedule that has set timings for eating, sleeping, and activities. A predictable and repetitive routine allows your loved ones to feel more secure, as well as prevent any further disruption to the ‘biological clock’.
Encourage Healthy Sleep Habits
One of the best ways to minimize sundowning effects is for your loved ones to get sufficient sleep. According to medical professionals, older adults should at least have seven to eight hours of sleep for their minds to be sharp. You can further promote healthy sleep patterns by discouraging heavy meals before bedtime, limiting coffee intake during the day, and keep afternoon naptimes short. Some sleep aid devices like white noise machines and weighted blankets can provide a more calming sleep environment.
Participate in Challenging Activities in the Morning
Your loved ones’ mental focus tends to be more alert earlier in the day, so it’s best for them to take part in strenuous or demanding activities one or two hours after waking up. Tasks such as bathing and working out should also occur before dusk to minimize sundowning effects.