Long Winter Nights May Affect Seniors

Long Winter Nights May Affect Seniors

Alzheimer’s & Dementia Symptoms May Increase Due to Less Sunlight

While caring for or living with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, you may notice marked changes in behavior in the late afternoon or early evening. The medical community refers to it as “sundowning,” or sundown syndrome. When someone is sundowning, they may be anxious, restless, irritable, confused, disoriented, demanding or suspicious.

The symptoms can get worse as the night goes on and usually get better by morning. During the winter months, sundowning often becomes more prevalent because of early sunsets and fading natural light. Although you may not be able to stop it completely, you can take steps to help manage this challenging time of day.

As many as 20% of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia experience sundowning. Some scientists believe that changes in the brain of dementia patients may affect their inner “body clock.” The area of the brain that signals when you’re awake or asleep breaks down in people with Alzheimer’s.

Sundowning can also be exacerbated by emotional or physical conditions. 

  • Tiredness or sleep problems
  • Hunger or thirst
  • Depression
  • Boredom
  • Physical pain

Other triggers can include environmental factors. Does the home get darker, louder, or more chaotic in the evenings? Does the senior’s caregiver change at that time of day? Is the patient eating in the evenings, and if so, are they consuming too much caffeine or sugar?

To manage sundown syndromes, keeping a log of activities and symptoms is an excellent start. Encourage caregivers to look for patterns, note the things that seem to trigger sundowning, then try to avoid or limit those triggers. AARP offers a number of other helpful tips, including adjusting light exposure, diverting attention to an activity, maintaining structured routines, and keeping surroundings simple.

The winter can be a comforting and healing time for rest and a slowdown in stressful activities. By getting needed support and following a few tips, caregivers can reassure senior loved ones that they are safe and help them cope with the change in season.

If you know a senior or family with a senior with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia whose disease has become a challenge, it may be time to seek out a memory care facility. Your local Oasis Senior Advisors provider can help find the right place with the right level of care seniors with dementia need. Our dedicated team will identify and evaluate options to determine the perfect memory care solution that fits the needs of any senior and their family. Give us a call to get started for free today.