Oftentimes at the end of a day caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, instead of the stress winding down, it can ramp up. A common experience in dementia called sundowning is when seniors become fearful, restless and agitated during the evening hours. This can be stressful for all involved. Concerns intensify as family members try to keep the older adult relaxed and safe, while hoping to get some rest themselves.
One particular program offers a solution: overnight care that provides services specifically to individuals with sundowning difficulties. Described as a slumber party ambiance, older persons participate in a full variety of structured activities in a safe atmosphere: music and dancing, puzzles, movies, food preparation, and more – offering family care providers a much appreciated chance 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.
- Make sure the person with Alzheimer’s is exercising every day, early in the day.
- Make sure he or she experiences the sunlight in the morning.
- Adhere to a set routine for bedtime, wake-up time, and meals.
- 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 calming, quiet activities to do together during wakeful times, but avoid watching television.
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 with a rise of stroke and even death in those with dementia – so proceed carefully)
- Medications to aide in falling and staying asleep
Make sure to discuss the risks vs. benefits of any treatment option suggested by the senior’s physician. And, keep in mind that a treatment plan that works now may not be as effective as the condition progresses – and vice versa.
North River Home Care in Norwell, MA can also help with overnight caregivers in the home to help restore peace to evening hours. Contact us at (781) 659-1366 to learn more.