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You Are My Sunshine

dstricoff April 16th, 2010, 12:26 PM
Debbie Stricoff, Dir., Adult Day Care Services
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For many seniors with dementia, summer can bring a change in “sundowning” patterns that present behavioral and emotional challenges for family caregivers. People with dementia can experience confusion, restlessness and anxiety late in the day, and they often become disoriented, hungry, tired, or uncomfortable in a variety of ways. For family caregivers, a loved one who is sundowning can be particularly stressful and difficult to manage.

The causes of sundowning are not known, but scientists think the condition may relate to a lack of sensory stimulation after dark when lights inside and out may be dim and sounds from routine daytime activities less pronounced.

According to Glenn Smith, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist with the Mayo Clinic, factors that may aggravate late-day confusion include:

  • Fatigue
  • Low lighting
  • Increased shadows

Some tips for reducing this type of disorientation in your loved one with dementia:

  • Plan for activities and exposure to light during the day to encourage nighttime sleepiness.
  • Limit caffeine and sugar to morning hours.
  • Serve dinner early and offer a light snack before bedtime.
  • Keep a night light on to reduce agitation that occurs when surroundings are dark or unfamiliar.

If you are a family caregiver looking for resources and information that will help you better understand and take care of a loved one with dementia, a VNSNY Behavioral Health Specialist may be able to help.  Please call (212)-760-3215 for more information.

Discussion

  • [...] Richard is a patient in the behavioral health program, and Anne has relied on the weekly visits by the nurses to learn strategies to support her role as caregiver. For example, Richard was greatly affected by “sundowning,” a common phenomenon in which dementia patients’ behavioral symptoms are triggered by the change from day to night. To learn more about “sundowning” please visit: http://blogs.vnsny.org/2010/04/16/you-are-my-sunshine/. [...]

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