Understanding the effects of sundowning

Benefits of Home Health Services
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There are a lot of signs and symptoms that come with Alzheimer’s. You may notice that your elderly loved one consistently forgets things a lot more than they used to. You may also find that they are constantly confused and may even forget your name. Or, you may discover that they’re wandering or driving away from home and getting lost in familiar places.

These warning signs can be concerning. However, once you get an official diagnosis, you can help get your elderly loved one the proper care and treatment they need.

As you learn more about Alzheimer’s and how it affects your elderly loved one, you may notice they experience confusion and moodiness late at night, also known as sundowning.

What is sundowning?

According to The Mayo Clinic, sundowning refers to a state of confusion that can occur in the late afternoon and continue into the evening. With sundowning, your elderly loved one may display certain behaviors like aggression, confusion, anxiety or inattentiveness during the later hours of the day.

Sundowning isn’t a particular disease but rather a cluster of symptoms that occur at a specific time of the day. However, the causes of sundowning are still unknown.

What causes sundowning?

Each person experiences sundowning differently. However, certain things can trigger it more than others, like:

  • Disruption of the body’s internal clock
  • Presence of an infection
  • Fatigue or sleep deprivation
  • Difficulties separating dreams from reality
  • Low or reduced lighting

How can I help my elderly loved one combat sundowning?

While you can’t eliminate sundowning, there are a few things you can do to reduce its effects:

Maintain a consistent schedule

For anyone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, maintaining a relatively consistent and repetitive schedule is crucial, as the familiarity can help jog their working memory. It also plays a vital role in their sleep. Getting up and going to bed at the same time can help reduce the effects of sundowning like confusion, aggression, restlessness and agitation.

Limit daytime naps

People with Alzheimer’s tend to sleep more. However, constant napping throughout the day can easily throw off their sleep schedule and exacerbate the symptoms of sundowning. To avoid this, encourage your loved ones and their care providers to keep them busy and active throughout the day. That way, when nighttime rolls around, they’re ready to hit the hay.

Limit caffeine and sugar intake during morning hours

While caffeinated beverages can decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s, those who currently have the condition should stay away from caffeine and other sugary foods late in the day. Because caffeine is a stimulant, it can keep your elderly loved one active for a certain period of time. And while that can be good for them in the morning, an overly active brain at night can cause them to lose sleep.

Limit background noise late at night

Even if your elderly loved one is used to having the TV or other stimuli on at night, it’s better for their condition to keep engagement with electronics to a minimum. The blue light from TV and other devices can activate the stimuli in their brain, which can prevent the release of melatonin and keep them up later.

A home health aide can help with sundowning

Sundowning is one of the many facets that make dementia and Alzheimer’s so challenging for your loved one. So when they start experiencing these things, having a helping hand can be beneficial.

Fortunately, a home health aide from Pinnacle Home Care can help look after your loved one and help them combat the effects of sundowning and other memory-related issues.

If you’re interested in seeing what value home health care can provide for your elderly loved one, check out our website. You can also give us a call to learn more about the services we have to offer.