If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, you know that oftentimes as the day winds down, the stress ramps up. Sundown syndrome, a common experience in dementia in which seniors become agitated, fearful, and restless during the evening hours, is exhausting for all involved. Concerns increase as family members try to keep the elderly adult calm and safe, while attempting to get some rest themselves.
One extraordinary program presents a solution: overnight care that provides services specifically for people with sundowning issues. Described as a slumber party ambiance, aging adults get involved in a full array of structured activities in a safe atmosphere: music and dancing, puzzles, movies, preparing food, and more – offering family care providers a much appreciated chance to sleep 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,” shares Ruth Drew of the Alzheimer’s Association.
There are, however, a number of other measures to try to restore healthy sleep patterns for seniors:
- Try having the older person exercise early in the day, every 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.
- Remove caffeine and alcohol from the senior’s diet, and avoid nicotine as well.
- Encourage the person with Alzheimer’s to get out of bed if he or she is unable to sleep and is restless. This will allow the bed to be seen as a place of rest only.
- Find quiet, calming activities for the senior to engage in during wakeful times, but avoid watching TV.
There are also a variety of medications the doctor may want to try if none of the non-drug approaches help, including:
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Particular antipsychotics (noting that some antipsychotics are connected to a rise of stroke and even death in those with dementia – so proceed carefully)
- Medicines to aide in falling and staying asleep
Make sure to discuss the risks vs. benefits of any treatment option recommended by the senior’s doctor. And, remember that a treatment plan that works now may not be as effective as the disease progresses – and vice versa.
Midnight Sun Home Care’s Alzheimer’s and dementia care services can also assist seniors and family caregivers in Anchorage and throughout the Mat-Su Valley with overnight caregivers in the home to help restore peace to evening hours. Contact us at (907) 677-7890 to learn more.