Sunlight has a very strong effect on most living things. Think of how sunny days affect your mood or how a bunch of rainy days in a row can bring you down.
Sundowner's syndrome is a condition where symptoms tend to worsen when the sun goes down in the late afternoon and evening. This issue typically affects those suffering from Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. Sundowner’s disease symptoms include confusion, agitation, anxiety, and restlessness and can make daily life very challenging.
There are ways to combat sundowner's syndrome to help manage the symptoms and improve overall well-being. Here are seven tips for coping with sundowner's syndrome:
Regular routines and a daily schedule increase mental stability and help those with sundowner's syndrome feel less anxious and more secure in their environment. Schedule meals, bathing, bedtime, and other daily activities for the same time every day. Consistency reduces confusion and provides a sense of structure and predictability.
Natural sunlight helps regulate the body's internal clock. Let the sun come shining through! During the day, open curtains or blinds to let in the light of the day. As evening approaches, make sure that the lighting inside your home is bright enough to prevent shadows and dark spaces and corners. Ensuring proper lighting will decrease confusion and depression.
Insomnia can cause all kinds of negative issues like restlessness, depression, and poor health. It is very important to avoid stimulants that could disrupt sleep. Caffeine, sugar, and nicotine can cause insomnia and increase restlessness. It is best to avoid any stimulants in the hours before bedtime completely. Warm, mild, and caffeine-free herbal teas are wonderful alternatives that promote relaxation and a more restful night's sleep.
Proper nutrition is the key to good health. Meals that are well-balanced and offer the proper nutrients for a sound mind and body can regulate mood and energy levels. Avoid heavy meals and instead opt for meals that are easy to digest. Avoid sugary snacks close to bedtime as they can lead to energy spikes and crashes. Hydration is always important, but keeping fluid intake to daytime hours will allow your loved one to sleep soundly during the night and not have to get up to use the bathroom.
Physical activity can help reduce depression, anxiety, and restlessness. A gentle walk during the afternoon, stretching, or chair exercises will go a long way to boost mood and health. However, limit activity to daytime hours. Exercising closer to bedtime can be mentally stimulating and increase alertness, which makes it harder to relax and fall asleep.
Sundowning can be very challenging, and a very important way to keep mood and energy levels where they should be is to reduce clutter. A living area that is clean and clutter-free reduces sensory overload, which is common among those with Sundowner's Syndrome. Loud television or radio shows can be very distracting and lead to confusion. Instead, fill the living space with relaxing music or calming sounds like ocean waves or rain. Minimize any excessive noise or distractions.
Anxiety and confusion can become especially worse at night. When this symptom presents itself, offer reassurance. Be patient and calm. Providing emotional support with a gentle touch will go a long way to ease stress and fears. Address any concerns with acceptance and soothing tones. When anxiety gets the best of your loved one, expressing empathy will help bring them to a better state of mind.
Supporting someone with sundowner's syndrome can be challenging for both the patient and the caregiver. It's important to be flexible and customize any of the above strategies to your loved ones' specific wants and needs. Watch for signs of worsening symptoms and make any necessary adjustments.
Keep your doctor in the loop. Talk to them about any concerns or new symptoms. They can help you devise a more personalized plan for managing sundowning. They can also prescribe any necessary medications or behavioral therapy to alleviate symptoms and improve the patient's quality of life.
As a caregiver, make sure also to manage your own stress and practice self-care. Caring for someone with sundowner's syndrome can be challenging, and it's vital to seek help from local support groups or healthcare providers when needed.
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Linda Guerrera has been the Digital Content Manager for Health Products For You since 2022. A recipient of the New York State Broadcasters Award for Outstanding Work in Radio, she spent over ...
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