Establishing a daily routine helps your loved one with dementia stay comfortable. It gives them a sense of order and predictability. However, as seasons change, their cognitive abilities might be affected. This is worse during winter when days are short and nights are long. Your loved ones are likely to be confused by this change and feel a sense of disruption to their usual routine. This effect is known as ‘sundowning’.
Wondering what are some of the effects that changes in seasons have on your loved one with dementia? Read on to find out.
Confusion And Agitation
When sundowning happens, the most noticeable symptoms in your loved ones are confusion and increased agitation during the late afternoon or early evening. They get confused about time and their circadian rhythm is thrown off. In addition, some of these factors can aggravate the situation:
- Having too much caffeine
- Poor indoor lighting
- Increased shadows in or around the house
- Prescence of infections
You can help your loved ones by limiting their caffeine intake. When the sun is about to set, play some light music or white noise to help them relax. Also, try to keep activities to the day. Speak with a doctor if you suspect your loved ones have any underlying conditions that can worsen sundowning behavior.
In winter when days are shorter, it gets dark earlier. This can leave your loved ones with dementia feeling disturbed and restless. The result is poor sleep quality which affects their energy levels.
You could try to bring your loved one out for a walk during the day. Go for a stroll at the nearby park or have some afternoon tea on the balcony. Sunlight is a good source of vitamin D and is linked to better sleep quality.
Restlessness, fear, and discomfort are some triggers of wandering. Dementia causes your loved ones to lose their ability to recognize familiar places and people. They feel disoriented in crowded places, express the desire to go “home” when they are already at home and can have trouble locating the bathroom. In addition, they may also experience hallucinations. Wandering is more pronounced when sundowning happens. The risks are increased if they are outdoors.
Are there ways you can reduce the risks? While there is no guarantee these actions can prevent your loved one from wandering, you can begin by identifying the time of day they tend to wander. Plan some activities like a workout to help reduce their anxiety. Make sure they stay away from crowded places and don’t leave them alone in new surroundings.
Combatting the effects of seasons is no easy task. You may face many challenges when caring for your loved one with dementia. But you don’t have to face this stress alone. Personalized memory care can play a huge role in improving the quality of life of your loved one. Moreover, it can take some of that stress off your shoulders. If you’re in doubt about how this can help you, contact a qualified professional to find out more.