In an effort to raise awareness, educate our community and assist families who have been touched by Alzheimer’s disease, this month’s article will focus on Sun-downing, a common behavioral change in a person living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Evening hours can be especially challenging for those with Sundowner’s Syndrome. There are many hypotheses as to why this particular time of day is difficult—from being tired or bored—to natural circadian rhythms responding to the loss of sunlight. Even the person’s thoughts of dwelling on days gone by, and how life has changed, is enhanced as the day closes. No one truly knows why those with Alzheimer’s get particularly irritable at this time, let alone why people, in general, experience mood swings. But dealing with Sun-downing can be frustrating.
Top Sundowner’s Tips for Caregivers
Here are a few tips to make life a little easier during those dusk hours:
1. Encourage a little healthy (not exhausting) exercise during the day to get the person’s endorphins going and blood flowing. This will promote a relaxing and low-key evening to help switch the body to end-of-day focus.
2. Turn lights on in the rooms you and the person you are caring for will be occupying during the evening.
3. Try to keep the person with Alzheimer’s disease engaged on something, whether it’s a specific task or focus like folding laundry, looking at pictures or playing a game. This helps to create new thought patterns.
4. Select one area of a room to become a “quiet place” where there is a bright light and soothing music.
5. If this time marks a particular trend in the person’s life, try to mimic what they may have done. From setting the table to preparing for dinner or reading the newspaper, these ‘normal’ life activities may be comforting.
6. Only allow cat naps during the day of 20 minutes or less. Hours of sleeping can confuse the body’s circadian rhythms and keep the person too awake at night.
7. If the person you care for paces at night, make sure there’s a clear path and accompany them—to let them know they’re not alone.
8. If you sense your loved one is getting frustrated; hold his or her hand or put your hand on his or her back or knee. Sometimes a soothing hand or shoulder massage can be comforting and can lesson any tension that may be building.
9. Promote evening activities of positive interactions and memories. Whether it’s watching movies, listening to music, looking through family albums or calling a beloved family member or friend.
10. Maintain a comfortable temperature in the house.
11. Talk to your doctor about medications that may help with Sundowner’s.
The key to this time of night is helping the person you care for focus on things outside their own thought process, so they do not get upset. Making this time of day easier on them will, in turn, make it easier on you. Having the right balance of tasks, planning and comfort can help to reduce Sundowning. Source: Dana Larsen
Feel free to reach out to Jayne Mund, Caregiver Consultant for resources on coping with Sun-downing and other behavior changes in the person you care for. A Caregiver Consultant can provide guidance and assist the caregiver in planning for and dealing with aspects of the care-giving experience.
Take advantage of the support and resources available to you and your family so you can live life to the fullest. For information about local resources to assist you in next steps after a diagnosis, contact Jayne Mund at 763-689-8811.
“The gateways to knowledge, tools & information are always open!”
For more information about the CambridgeACT on Alzheimer’s call Julie Tooker at 763-691-6192. Your input and assistance is valuable! Let’s ACT together to create and sustain a dementia friendly community. There is Hope. There is Help.
• CambridgeACT Memory Café meets the second Thursday of each month from 9:30-10:30 a.m. on July 11 at the SAC’s Enrichment Center, 140 Buchanan St. N. Suite 164, Cambridge. Registration-Questions: Contact Angie Detert at 320-364-1115 or email@example.com to sign up and/or for more information.
• CambridgeACT Isanti Memory Café meets the fourth Thursday of each month on July 25 from 9:30-10:30 a.m. at Spirit River Community, 1321 Heritage Blvd. NE, Isanti. Registration-Questions: Contact Julie Tooker at 763-691-6192 or firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up and-or for more information.
• Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group meets the third Tuesday of the month on July 16 from 10-11:30 a.m. at the GracePointe Crossing Town Center, 1545 River Hills Parkway, Cambridge. Contact Molly Carlson for more information at email@example.com or call 763-691-6172.
• A free Dementia Friends class is being offered on July 25 from 2-3:30 p.m. at the Adult Enrichment Center in Cambridge. Contact Community Education to sign up at 763-689-6189 and to find out location of each session.
• Alzheimer’s Association, Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter 24-hour helpline, 800-272-3900, www.alz.org/mnnd.