Alleviating Symptoms of Sundowning in In-Home Dementia Care
Dusk is often an especially challenging time for those living with dementia. This phenomenon is known as "sundowning," and it can be taxing for patients as well as their loved ones and caretakers. Let's look at a few strategies designed to help someone aging in place calm anxiety and assuage negative behaviors.
In-home Dementia Care
Dementia is a challenging diagnosis regardless of the care setting. The caretakers of individuals suffering from dementia must manage physical healthcare concerns while dealing with cognitive loss, confusion, and potentially aggressive behavior. People with cognitive declines are especially susceptible to secondary conditions like depression, anxiety, and mood swings. Over time, these take a toll on family caregivers.
What is Sundowning?
Sundowning is a condition that affects people with mid to late-stage dementia. It occurs in the late afternoon and early evening, especially between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
While no one knows exactly what causes sundowning, it's generally accepted that a person's routine activities of daily living, especially those centering around late-day tasks such as coming home from work, making dinner, and taking care of family are major contributing factors. People with dementia are no longer able to take care of themselves, their homes, or their loved ones the way they once were. A major component of their psychosocial well-being has suddenly disappeared.
Tips to Help Decrease Sundowning Symptoms
There are a few simple steps you can take to help mitigate confusion, anxiety, and potentially dangerous behavior. People with dementia may no longer be able to engage in meaningful activity due to their cognitive declines, and thus are more likely to engage in problematic behaviors. However, the good news is that much like muscle memory for an athlete, your patterns of behavior stay with you even into cognitive decline. The key is tapping into that muscle memory.
Stick to a Routine
When it comes to sundowning, a routine is your best friend. For live-in caregivers helping people with dementia age in place, it can help dramatically to implement a routine and predictable schedule centering around evening meal time. A schedule helps to decrease the anxiety and fear associated with the unknown.
Provide Sensory Relief
Sundowning can be exacerbated by overstimulating the senses. Light from the setting sun can create shadows, which in turn create visual disturbances and confusion. Noise levels can also be a trigger for people with advanced dementia. In order to establish a consistent care environment, seek to reduce noise, light, and other sensory input.
Engage People in Purposeful Activity
Home caregivers should never underestimate the power of purpose. While people with dementia might not be able to engage in the same activities they once did, purposeful activity is important nonetheless. Try to include calming and predictable activities in your schedule such as playing soft music, aromatherapy, or gentle conversation centering around reminiscence in order to alleviate anxiety and confusion.
Consistent In-home Care
Anyone who has spent time working with people with dementia will tell you that the little moments of joy from senior companionship far outweigh the challenges of caregiving. At Senior Helpers in Warren, PA we employ a structured in-home care service built around our GEMS philosophy. For more information on how we can help provide 24 hour, in-home care for your loved one with dementia, please contact us to inquire about senior companionship for the people that you care about most.