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Shorter Days and Seniors

As the fall season progresses along towards winter, one thing everyone surely notices is the sun rising later each day, and going down earlier each evening. Come November, it’s only going to get worse when Daylight Savings ends, making the sun set even earlier each day. For many of us, less light and more cold can have a debilitating effect on our daily lives, and our emotional and mental health. Our internal clocks are calibrated by exposure to sunlight, so for many of us shorter days are a disruption that can be hard to shake ourselves free of.

Many seniors, especially those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, suffer from a condition called “sundowning”. These seniors experience disorientation and confused mental states that get worse through the night. For them, the sun going down early can mean increased memory loss, confusion, and agitation. While there’s no cure for sundowning, there are steps that can be taken to make it easier.

  • By sticking to a routine, you can foster a sense of normalcy and provide a safe, comforting environment free of surprises or dangers.
  • Sunlight, even artificial light from lightboxes, can provide much needed hormones generated by light, and help maintain the feeling of being active and alert, as well as help the circadian rhythm.
  • Watching what they eat, limiting intake of sugar and caffeine later in the day can help them get a good night’s rest.
  • Consulting with their doctor to see if there’s any adjustments that could be made to medications, or supplements that can enhance their mind and their mood.