For people caregiving for a family member with Alzheimer’s, as the day comes to a close, the caregiving stress can intensify. A common experience in dementia called sundown syndrome, or sundowning, is when seniors become fearful, restless and agitated during the evening hours. This can be stressful for all involved. Frustrations worsen as family members try to keep the older adult relaxed and safe, while trying to get some rest themselves.
One unique program supplies a solution: overnight care that provides services specifically to people with sundown syndrome difficulties. Described as a slumber party environment, older persons engage in a full variety of structured activities in a safe environment: music and dancing, puzzles, films, preparing food, and more – giving family caregivers a much appreciated opportunity to rest 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,” explains Ruth Drew of the Alzheimer’s Association.
There are certain steps one can take to try and restore a healthier sleep pattern for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Try having the older person exercise early in the day, every day.
- Be sure to let the person have exposure to morning sunlight.
- Keep to a regular scheduled routine for bedtime, wake-up time and meals.
- Maintain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom and use a softly lit nightlight.
- Have the senior avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol.
- When the senior becomes restless or is unable to sleep, have him or her get out of bed, leaving the bed for sleeping only.
- Avoid watching television, but find other quiet, calming activities for the senior to engage in during wakeful times.
If none of the alternative approaches are working for the senior, the doctor may recommend a medication, such as:
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Certain antipsychotics (noting that some antipsychotics are linked to an increase of stroke and even death in those with dementia – so proceed with caution)
- Medicines to aide in falling and staying asleep
Be sure to discuss the risks vs. benefits of any treatment option suggested by the senior’s doctor. And, remember that a treatment plan that works now may not be as effective as the condition progresses – and vice versa.
Atlanta Home Care Partners can also help both seniors and family caregivers get some rest by providing overnight caregivers in the home to help restore peace to evening hours. Contact us about Alzheimer’s in home care in Atlanta, GA at (404) 228-0103 to learn more.