For people caregiving for a family member with Alzheimer’s, as the day comes to a close, the caregiving stress can intensify. As the sun goes down, many persons with Alzheimer’s experience agitation, fearfulness and restlessness. This condition, called sundowning, can be stressful for both the caregiver and the person with Alzheimer’s. Frustrations escalate as members of the family try to help keep the elderly adult relaxed and safe and assist with his or her dementia and sundowning, while trying to get some rest themselves.
One extraordinary program delivers a solution: overnight care that provides services specifically for people with sundowning challenges. Described as a slumber party ambiance, older persons take part in a complete variety of structured activities in a safe environment: music and dancing, puzzles, films, meal preparation, and more – giving family caregivers a much appreciated chance to sleep 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,” shares Ruth Drew of the Alzheimer’s Association.
However, there are several measures one can take to try to restore healthy sleep patterns for those with Alzheimer’s.
- Make sure the person with Alzheimer’s is exercising every day, early in the day.
- Ensure he or she has exposure to morning sunlight.
- Keep to a regular scheduled 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.
- When the senior becomes restless or is unable to sleep, have him or her get out of bed, leaving the bed for sleeping only.
- Find calming, quiet activities to do together during wakeful times, but avoid watching television.
There are a number of different medications that the doctor may prescribe if the alternative methods are no longer working, such as:
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Certain antipsychotics (noting that some antipsychotics are linked with an increase of stroke and even death in those with dementia – so proceed with caution)
- Medications to aide in falling and staying asleep
Be sure to discuss the risks vs. benefits of any treatment option recommended by the senior’s physician. And, keep in mind that a treatment plan that works now may not be as effective as the disease progresses – and vice versa.
Regency Home Care in Atlanta can also assist with overnight caregivers in the home to help restore peace to evening hours. Contact us at 678.999.2446 to learn more.