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How to Care for Aging Adults with Sundown Syndrome

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Daily at twilight, your loved one may become distraught. You’re upset too, seeing him or her in the throes of sundowning symptoms such as fear, confusion, agitation, sadness, suspicion, and pacing. Thankfully, you can ease the effects of this syndrome associated with dementia. Dementia experts believe sundowning is provoked by chemical and environmental factors. You can moderate your loved one’s symptoms by avoiding the triggers, including fading sunlight, shadows, physical discomfort, changes in routine, excessive noise, and sleep deprivation. Here’s how to reduce the impact of the triggering factors on your loved one. 

Encourage Productive Activity 

During late afternoon, before sunset, give your loved one a rhythmic task. Repetitive actions are grounding and calming. When stressed, people with dementia often engage in redundant behavior. To raise your loved one’s self-esteem, offer tasks that are both repetitive and productive. Examples include: 

  • Filling coin wrappers
  • Raking leaves
  • Folding laundry
  • Grooming a pet
  • Bagging trail mix
  • Making sandwiches
  • Peeling potatoes
  • Washing dishes
  • Opening mail
  • Wrapping gifts
  • Beading bracelets
  • Knitting
  • Coloring

Many seniors require assistance with even minor tasks such as preparing meals, doing laundry, or taking care of a pet. Aging adults who require assistance with the tasks of daily living can benefit from reliable home care. Oklahoma City, OK, families trust in Home Care Assistance to provide the high-quality care their elderly loved ones need and deserve. Our caregivers are trained to help seniors prevent and manage serious illnesses and encourage them to make healthier decisions as they age.

Maximize Light 

Dim environments hinder the release of hormones that promote sleep and happiness. At breakfast, seat your loved one before an “SAD lamp,” the type used for seasonal affective disorder. Position the lamp 2 feet from your loved one, above eye level. For optimal results, provide 30 to 60 minutes of daily exposure. 

Benefits of bright light therapy include reduced depression, aggression, and insomnia, evident within two weeks of regular use. A 1995 study reported in Psychiatry Research found that seniors with dementia were less agitated on days they received bright light therapy.

When shopping for a lamp, choose one that emits full spectrum light. The best magnitude is 10,000 LUX, 20 times brighter than standard indoor lighting. Additionally, buy an appliance that filters 99 percent of UV rays. 

During the day, keep blinds and drapes open, letting sunlight brighten the home. Before sunset, close drapery and turn on the lights, preventing shadows. To reduce confusion during nocturnal awakenings, install nightlights in the bedroom and bathroom. 

Provide Aromatherapy 

Aromatherapy involves breathing essential oil vapors to induce wellbeing. Oils can be applied to potpourri, tissues, bed linens, and room diffusers. 

You can buy essential oils at natural food stores and online. Add five drops to a medium of choice, refreshing it as the fragrance fades. Below are essential oils used for dementia, along with their scents and benefits. 

  • Frankincense – Smelling of woodsy lemon, this tree resin calms and soothes, aiding sleep
  • Lavender – This sweet aroma alleviates fear, irritability, depression, and insomnia
  • Lemon – Refreshing citrus aids concentration, relieves tension, and elevates mood
  • Peppermint – Pleasantly sharp, this scent promotes attentiveness
  • Orange – Bright citrus generates joy
  • Rosemary – This strong piney aroma boosts cognitive function, memory, and alertness
  • Ylang Ylang – Soft and flowery, this oil reduces stress and facilitates sleep

A 2009 study in Psychogeriatrics revealed the effects of aromatherapy on seniors with dementia. Subjects inhaled lemon and rosemary oils in the morning and orange and lavender at night. During aromatherapy, all the subjects demonstrated better orientation and cognitive function.

Utilize Music

At twilight, playing your loved one’s favorite music fosters mental clarity. Singing along may boost his or her recall. To rouse joy, play vibrant scores like marches and show tunes. Enhance your loved one’s delight by encouraging toe tapping and clapping. For loss of appetite, pair meals with soft, relaxing melodies in the background. 

If your loved one plays an instrument, urge him or her to practice often. Musical training increases concentration, memory, alertness, and coordination. 

At bedtime, coax sleep with gentle instrumentals featuring harp, piano, flute, and acoustic guitar. Slow rhythms ease muscle tension, high blood pressure, and labored breathing. They also prompt melatonin, a sleep-regulating hormone. If pain makes sleeping difficult for your loved one, play mellow music to soothe the aches and anxiety. 

In Oklahoma City, respite care is a great help to many families. Caring for a senior loved one can be overwhelming at times, which puts family caregivers at risk for burnout. However, an in-home caregiver can take over your loved one’s care, allowing you the time you need to focus on your own health, maintain a full-time job, or care for other members of your family.

Maintain a Regular Schedule 

Predictable activity is comforting, helping your loved one feel secure. Adhere to regular times for waking, eating, engaging in productive activity, relaxing, and sleeping. By following routines for daily tasks, your loved one will be more oriented to the time of day. 

Designate mornings for outings, visits, appointments, and challenging tasks. In the early afternoon, schedule a fun type of exercise such as gardening, walking, bird watching, or playing horseshoes, catch, or croquet. Hobbies and games involving hand-eye coordination sharpen cognition and recall. 

Prepare for bed with calming rituals, in the same nightly order. A bedtime routine might include coloring, sipping chamomile tea, and taking a bath with lavender-scented soap. 

If you have a senior loved one who needs help maintaining a high quality of life while aging in place, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of home care Oklahoma City families can rely on. All of our caregivers are bonded, licensed, and insured, there are no hidden fees, and we never ask our clients to sign long-term contracts. To learn more about our customized in-home care plans, call us at 405-285-4191.

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