Daylight Saving Time causes ‘sundowning’ in people with Alzheimer’s and dementia

Local News

(ABC4) – With Daylight Saving Time ending just around the corner on November 7, most people will need to adjust their clocks and schedules, which can be a nuisance.

For folks living with Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia, Daylight Saving can be quite stressful and even dangerous by exacerbating “sundowning,” a disorienting condition that can last throughout the winter months.

The time change and prolonged darkness can cause behavioral changes that could be dangerous. “Sundowning” is described as a group of symptoms that include anxiety, sadness, restlessness, hallucinations, delusions, sudden mood swings, increased confusion, and energy surges.

Officials say over 104,000 Utahns are currently living with Alzheimer’s or a form of dementia.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Over 6 million Americans live with a disease that has no prevention or cure.

Affected people will experience sundowning most typically during late afternoons and early evenings. The behavioral disruptions can affect sleeping and waking cycles which are only be worsened by Daylight Saving.

What should you do if you are caring for a person with Alzheimer’s and symptoms arise?

  • Get plenty of rest so you’re emotionally calm and able to manage stress levels
  • Schedule doctor appointments and activities in the morning or early afternoon when the person with Alzheimer’s/dementia is more alert
  • Identify any triggers the person may exhibit before sundowning and if the person starts feeling agitated, do not physically restrain them
  • Reduce stimulation during evening hours by avoiding loud TV noises, music or household chores which could confuse the person with Alzheimer’s/dementia even more
  • Keep your home well-lit for visibility
  • Serve heavier meals earlier in the day and lighter meals in the evening
  • Allow the person to pace back and forth when needed and encourage them to do outdoor activities. Exercise such as walking at the park is a great way to reduce stress

“While the cause of sundowning is unclear, there are steps that families can take to help manage sundowning in their loved one,” said Ronnie Daniel, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Utah. “The more we understand about sundowning, the better we can help our loved ones cope with the discomfort it can cause them.”

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