I hope you all remembered to change your clocks, spring forward!

For many of us this is an exciting time of year. Spring is right around the corner, and we will have more daylight hours but for those living with a dementia, it is confusing.

Your loved one may have already lost the concept of time. They rely on routine and consistency to navigate there day. They have become familiar with their schedule but suddenly it doesn’t feel the same. Any change affects a dementia patient, even if we consider it subtle.

For those living with ALSP, it feels like everything changes, not just the time. When daylight savings time occurs, they will know by their internal clock that something isn’t quite right, even if they can’t articulate it. As with all things dementia-related, you are dealing with something there simply isn’t an easy “fix” for. However, it is still important to do what you can to help minimize the confusion.

What is Sundowning?

A state of confusion occurring in the late afternoon and spanning into the night. Sundowning can cause a variety of behaviors, such as confusion, anxiety, aggression or ignoring directions. Sundowning can also lead to pacing or wandering.

Changes to daily routines can bring added emotional, behavioral, and cognitive difficulties. These symptoms occur at a specific time of the day and may affect people with dementia and ALSP.

How to help your loved one:

  • Try to maintain a predictable routine for bedtime, waking, meals and activities. Dementia can make it hard to develop and remember new routines. Stay as consistent as possible to help avoid feelings of stress, confusion and anger. These feelings can play a large role in sundowning.
  • Limit caffeine and sugar to morning hours.
  • When possible and appropriate, include walks or time outside in the sunlight.
  • In a strange or unfamiliar setting, bring familiar items — such as photographs — to create a more relaxed, familiar setting.
  • Make notes about what happens before sundowning events and try to identify triggers.
  • Try to identify activities that are soothing to the person, such as listening to calming music, looking at photographs or watching a favorite movie.
  • If the person has trouble sleeping at night, it can be helpful to limit daytime naps.
  • In the evening, try to reduce background noise and stimulating activities, including TV viewing, which can sometimes be upsetting.
  • Keep a night light on to reduce agitation that occurs when surroundings are dark or unfamiliar.
  • When behavioral interventions and environmental changes do not work, discuss the situation with your doctor.

Be patient with your loved one as they adapt to the time change.