OCTOBER 30 2020
Most of us are anticipating this weekend’s changing of the clocks back one hour to mark the end of Daylight Savings Time with a mix of emotions. While we may be thrilled to have another hour of sleep, we are not looking forward to the desire to change into our pajamas every night at 5 o’clock because it is already dark out. (Just me?) The changing of clocks does a number on our circadian rhythm, also known as our internal body clock. This confusion is exacerbated by individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD).
Our loved ones who have a diagnosis of ADRD are also feeling a change with their internal clocks but, often, are not able to communicate their feelings of stress associated with this adjustment. ADRD presents its own sense of confusion, and individuals suffering from dementia thrive on a set daily routine and familiarity. When we mess with these, the results are often anxiety, agitation, irritability, restlessness, and other symptoms which may result in difficult behaviors. Awareness of what our loved ones are experiencing and knowledge of ways we can prevent or decrease these behaviors will make their lives and ours less stressful.
Lighting plays a major role in combating both time changes and “sundowning," which is confusion and fatigue later in the day experienced by 1 in 5 individuals with ADRD. During the late afternoon, close your curtains and blinds and fill your home with plenty of warm lighting. Maintain your loved one’s routine by serving dinner at the same time and following typical evening practices, especially bedtimes.
If your loved one exhibits anxiety or agitation, ask them to help set the table or play calming music. Keeping your loved ones physically and mentally active during the day, while maintaining a daily routine as much as possible, will aid in creating days filled with comfort and joy more often than not.
As always, questions and comments are encouraged!