As night time approaches, many older adults may begin to experience severe confusion and anxiety. The term used to describe this condition is called “sundowning” which refers to a state of confusion, disorientation, aggression or ignoring of directions. Sundowning typically starts off in the late afternoon and spans into the night for seniors over the age of 65.
What exactly is “sundowning”?
Sundowning is typical in older adults who tend to have medical conditions that deteriorate their physical health. This in turn impacts their mental health. The affect of physical ailments on mental health can cause anxiety and just like most mental health issues, it remains undetectable for a long time.
Most seniors tend to take a while before they admit that their health—both physical and mental—is deteriorating. They feel it is a sign of weakness and fail to communicate their health concerns to their caregivers so as to not bother them. This is a natural part of aging and requires patience and empathy on the part of caregivers.
However, sundowning is not a disease. It is a symptom that affects many senior adults suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. Moreover, sundowning may cause the body’s sleep-wake cycle to get disturbed and this may lead to more behavioral problems later on in the day.
Some of The Visible Signs
Sundowning can often go undetected but start showing around late afternoon and extend to later on in the evening. This is why caregivers may need to look out for some of the warning signs of sundowning.
Seniors suffering from sundowning will often exhibit extreme worry and concern about the small things in their life. They may also be unable to let small things go and fret about parts of their routine all the time. Moreover, they may experience troublesome sleeping due to thoughts racing in their head.
Factors That May Cause Sundowning
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are many factors that may contribute to sundowning.
It may occur due to exhaustion from activities throughout the day. Mental and physical exhaustion, both, play a huge part in how much sundowning affects a senior adult. Having to navigate through unfamiliar or confusing environments can be particularly stressful for a senior loved one.
Another factor that contributes to sundowning is nonverbal behavior from others around them, such as body language that communicates frustration or stress. This negative body language is easily picked up by seniors who can detect uneasiness in the air.
Moreover, persons suffering from Alzheimer’s have moods that become greatly affected by reduced lighting. Reduced lighting creates increased shadows which may cause senior loved ones to misinterpret what they are seeing and hence increase their agitation.
How Can Caregivers Help Reduce The Effects of Sundowning?
Take care of yourself, first!
As caregivers, it is as important to take care of yourself as it is to take care of your senior loved ones. Being more relaxed and in control of your moods is not only going to help you as a caregiver, but it will also help your loved ones.
Get proper rest so that you are less likely to exhibit signs of stress of frustration while attending to your loved one.
Restrict activities to day time
Seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s are more alert during the day so it’s always a good idea to schedule their doctor’s appointments, personal hygiene routines and recreational trips in the morning or early afternoon.
Try to reduce stimulating activities of your senior loved ones in the night, such as watching TV, doing chores, loud music, etc. These distractions may disorient your loved ones at night.
Restrict environmental factors such as lighting, big meals at night time
Keep your homes well lit in the evenings as adequate lighting can reduce your senior loved one’s confusion. Consult your senior’s doctor on the best time of the day for medications, as some medications induce anxiety as a side effect.
Try not to restrict the movement of your loved one during the day as it can make them feel more agitated. Allow them to walk around under supervision and try to walk with them to help reduce their restlessness. Offer them larger meals during the day time and keep smaller meals for night time.
Looking For Some Help?
Taking care of a senior loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia can get overwhelming. If you’re looking for senior care placement options and assisted living facilities in the Kansas City metropolitan area, get in touch with us, today!
Our free of charge consultation with Ralph Caro, Certified Senior Care Advisor, for elderly care and placement can help you find the most feasible option for a safe and comfortable senior care!
Contact Ralph Caro today to make an informed decision!