Sundowners – Part 2

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In this video, the second part of our series on Sundowner’s, we explore more techniques to help our loved ones experiencing this challenging symptom of dementia.

Welcome to “The Seniors Circle,” where we hope to inspire and help others by providing valuable, relevant information related to caring for an elderly loved one. Hi, my name is Dawn Neely and I’ll be your host. Thank you for joining us.

In part one of this video on “Sundowner’s and How to Help Your Loved One,” we talked about what Sundowner’s is and about a few things that we can do to support our senior experiencing symptoms of anxiety, stress, or fear later in the day. There are other things that we can do to help soothe loved ones as well. So let’s dig into it.

You may want to consider adjusting the light exposure. Some experts suggest that our hormones and body clocks are regulated by exposure to light, and that when light is limited it throws us off. If it’s hard to get enough exposure to direct sunlight, try a light box and use bright lights in the room. As it gets dark outside, increase the indoor lighting. This can really be important in the winter when days get shorter. It’s a good idea to turn lights on porches and outside windows that help prevent a senior suffering from Sundowner’s from feeling that it’s already bedtime.

You can try playing music and calming sounds throughout the day in order to help regulate mood. More cheerful, instrumental music in the morning with singalong favorites or show tunes can activate and energize, whereas when sundowning is settling in, it’s a good idea to try more calming music, maybe solo piano, or classical guitar, or even having a relaxation channel on a music app would work. There are also sound machines that mimic the sounds of storms, waves or white noise that can reduce anxiety and help one calm down.

Many people have found that using essential oils can be calming. Lavender, rose, chamomile, frankincense, and other essential oils are some that are being used. If you’re looking to encourage waking up and stirring activity during the day, you can try jasmine, peppermint, rosemary, or a citrus, like grapefruit, lemon or orange. You can always try different scents to see how your loved one responds to them. You can use these oils and diffusers as aromatherapy, or just put some maybe on a handkerchief or on some clothing.

Personal touch is something that can be very soothing and relaxing for someone who experiences anxiety. A wonderful hand or foot massage can relax tense muscles and increase feel good hormones. During the transition of afternoon to evening it might be a good idea to introduce to your loved one’s routine at a neck rub with calming essential oils.

Lastly, there are herbs, supplements and medications that can help with things such as symptoms of Sundowner’s. Be sure to talk to your loved one’s doctor though about things that could be helpful. Also make sure that you understand the possible side effects that could occur. It’s been shown that those suffering with dementia sometimes respond much differently than we would expect them to sedating drugs, anti-anxiety medication, and antidepressants. Talk to the physician about herbs and supplements, such as lemon balm, valerian, chamomile, and holy basil. Many supplements claim to be calming and stress reducing, including melatonin, magnesium, and B, C and E vitamins. It’s important to be very alert if using any of these supplements as a brain suffering with dementia can respond very differently to certain treatments.

Anyone that is caring for someone who suffers from sundown syndrome requires creativity, flexibility, empathy, and strong observational skills as they attempt to determine what triggers their loved ones and how to address the behaviors. Unfortunately, there isn’t a textbook that shows two people with dementia being exactly alike, so we have to be prepared to take different approaches until we find the technique, structure and routine that works. Success may be obtained, but it might be temporary, but even a little bit of success can greatly ease the anxieties of our loved one, as well as the stress experienced by those caring for individuals with Sundowner’s. If you’re caring for someone with sundowner symptoms and have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us at 248-969-4000 and a representative from Seniors Helping Seniors would be happy to discuss with you your situation and what might be helpful.

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