We have all noticed the change in the weather this past week and the shorter days too. Yes, we are fast heading towards the end of October (30th this year) when we will set our clocks back by an hour.
For many this will have very little significance, but for others (particularly those with a dementia) it will bring with it an increase in what has become known as Sundowning.
Sundowning usually begins between 2pm and early evening. It is a term given to the experiences of agitation, confusion and, in some cases, hallucinations.
Around 2pm is the natural time of day when we all begin to 'flag a little'.
A time when we should take a nap or at the very least get some fresh air and do some deep breathing.
It is important that we recognise what works best for each resident. And then we must support them to take the required action.
For people with dementia, taking a nap may be needed, but won't solve the 'problem' of Sundowning.
It can help if subtle clues are given, such as a clock which tells the time and whether it is morning or evening/night time.
Opening and closing the curtains at set times during the day can also help.
Having a routine during the day can help too. Although many argue against group activities at set times, this can really help residents to orientate their way through the day (even if they are not actually taking part in the activities).
Having a set time during the day, when they go for a walk, read the paper, eat their meals, etc., can all help when a person’s body clock doesn’t work as well as it should.
Going outside, particularly in the morning, can also help to set our body clocks. This can help us to sleep better at night too. Your whole care home family can benefit from this routine, so encourage everyone to get involved.
If this is not possible for some of your residents try using a lamp or lightbox that creates a bright indoor light.
Be prepared to give extra support to those who are particularly struggling at this time of year. Reflections in windows on dark days can add to confusion, try putting up net curtains rather than drawing the curtains too early.
Walk with those who feel the need to pick children up from school talking to them about their children can help them feel validated. Expressing your own exhaustion and suggesting a sit down with a cuppa can sometimes work in these circumstances.
Kitchen related tasks can help those ladies who fear their husbands will be coming home from work soon and they haven't even started cooking the evening meal yet.
Locked doors will add to frustrations, grab a coat and shoes and go out into the garden, the chill of the air can sometimes encourage a quick dash back into the warmth and comfort of your home - don't forget that cuppa to help settle back in.
If you have found some ways to help your residents to settle and sleep better during the night at this time of year, please share them in the comments - you could change someone's life.