Daylight Saving Time affects each of us differently. Some may adjust their daily schedules, work hours, meal time and bedtime. Our internal body clocks need to adapt as well, but most of us require only a day or two before we can continue without much difference or interruption.
When we “Fall back, or Spring Ahead”
Resetting the clock allows us more daylight hours in the day, extending light in the spring and summer evening hours, providing earlier light in fall and winter mornings. While most of us welcome the advantage of Daylight Saving Time, those who care for a loved one with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s Disease may experience escalated difficulty in managing that individual. Change in daily routine can be difficult for the dementia patient, and with sundowning syndrome (also known as late day confusion) typically occurring in the evening while the sun is setting, Daylight Saving Time may further contribute to confusion and agitation.
The basis for sundowning is biological. Brain function is most optimal during the day, when there is typically light. The older adult may feel more tired and stressed as the day wears on, and evenings can cause greater fatigue, depression and agitation.
The change in schedule and reduced sunlight earlier in the day has an increased effect on someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, who already has a deteriorated cerebral cortex affecting mind and behavior. Behavioral symptoms such as confusion begin late afternoon spanning into night. It can cause a variety of behaviors such as anxiety, aggression, insomnia, mood swings, tremors and ignoring directions.
Tips for Managing dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease during Day Light Saving Time
- Increase light in the home during the late afternoon to bedtime hours
- Avoid large meals at dinnertime, make lunch the largest meal
- Increase daily activity such as cognitive, physical and social stimulation to help promote an earlier bed time.
- Try to make sleep schedules and daily routine consistent to reduce confusion and manage expectations
- Monitor over napping. Keep naps short (30- 40 minutes during the day) to promote a better night sleep
Darlene Spagnola serves as Theia's Director of Client Services. More on Darlene and her background can be found here.