When a Loved One Suffers from Sundowning
2:00 in the morning is not the easiest time to feel focused and ready to support a loved one with Alzheimer’s, but when that loved one is impacted by Sundowner’s Syndrome, family caregivers sometimes have no other choice. This condition is often associated with the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s. It can cause mood and sleep disorders, restlessness, and anxiety in the later afternoon or early evening as well as frequent middle of the night waking. The causes of it are not well understood, but there are some strategies that families frequently find helpful in preventing it. Let’s take a look at a few.
Help Your Loved One to Stay Busy
A loved one with Alzheimer’s is often homebound because of the condition. When you’re home alone for several hours during the day, it can be difficult to keep the mind engaged, feel like you have a purpose and even stay awake. To help overcome this, try giving mom or dad a job to do. Even a simpler task like folding washcloths or sorting socks can provide a sense of purpose.
As humans, we thrive on routines. Having a time when we wake, a time when we go to bed and a time when we plan meals helps us to get through our day and maintain a more consistent wake/sleep cycle. As much as is possible, try to create and maintain a daily schedule for your loved one. Involve them in creating the routine to the best of their abilities. Depending on the severity of their Alzheimer’s, you may be able to place a chart on the wall to remind them of when to perform certain tasks. It’s also helpful to ensure that someone is available to help by providing reminders and support. This can be you, another family member or even a professional in home aide.
If your loved one is awake all night, it makes sense that they’ll be tired during the day. Sometimes naps are necessary. However, eliminating or shortening them can help your loved one to sleep better at night, which, in turn, means the naps won’t be as necessary moving forward.
Reduce TV Time in the Evening
Action movies and even some more dynamic comedy shows can get the heart racing. Evening news can be disturbing or even frightening. This often causes the mind to have a difficult time shutting down and shifting to sleep mode. If possible, encourage your loved one to remove the television from their bedroom and end television time at least a couple of hours before bedtime.
Sleeping with a full stomach can be difficult for anyone. While your loved one needs enough food to keep them nourished, if they’re struggling to fall and stay asleep at night, consider making the evening meal smaller. This might mean adjusting the meal schedule to offer a smaller snack earlier, then dinner and then another smaller snack closer to bedtime. Avoid caffeine and alcohol a couple of hours before bedtime too. Certain foods can also be healthy additions as an evening snack. A spoonful of honey boosts melatonin in the brain. Almonds and bananas contain magnesium which can naturally reduce muscle and nerve function. Turkey is a great source of protein and also a famous source of tryptophan, which can help to induce sleep.
In closing, remember that Sundowner’s Syndrome is complex and difficult to understand. If it’s something your loved one is struggling with, having support from a professional caregiver can make a world of difference. If you need help, Salus Homecare South Bay is here for you. Contact us to discuss your concerns during a complimentary, no obligation consultation.