Sundowner's Syndrome: Sundowning and Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time — every year I hear more and louder voices insisting we do away with springing ahead, when we are forced to lose that precious hour of sleep. I don’t hear quite so many voices in the fall, when we “gain” an hour, except for many of my friends in the senior caregiving community.

Sundown Syndrome occurs in approximately 25 percent of persons with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. When someone is “sundowning”, they can become hostile and agitated, angry and confused. Experts speculate that Sundowner’s can be triggered by end-of-day exhaustion, when all the stimulus from the day overwhelms the senses. In institutional settings, like nursing homes, Sundown Syndrome can occur during evening shift change, when there is a lot of commotion.  Although the causes of sundowning are largely unknown, it seems to happen to many late in the day, when afternoon turns to dusk. In the evening, shadows can be confusing, and people can become upset when they can’t see in the dark.

Spring Daylight Saving Time means there’s an extra hour of light at the end of our day. I wonder if this is helpful to caregivers working with those who experience Sundowner's. Even though I couldn’t find any data to suggest that Sundowners experience fewer symptoms when we “spring ahead,” I found plenty of anecdotal evidence that those with Sundown Syndrome experience it more acutely during the fall time change, when it gets dark much earlier. 

In any case, Daylight Saving Time messes with the natural rhythm of sleep, which can also trigger or exacerbate Sundowner’s symptoms and the stress they cause in elderly and caregivers alike.

The idea of Daylight Saving Time has roots in ancient civilizations, where the sun’s schedule set daily routines. Benjamin Franklin in 1784, proposed the notion jokingly to the editor of The Journal of Paris in “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light,” pointing out that Parisians could save money on candles by extending the hours of natural daylight. The U.S. implemented DST on and off since 1918, when President Woodrow Wilson signed it into law. But it wasn’t until Congress established the Uniform Time Act of 1966 that America reached a DST standard. Today, over 70 countries have adopted DST, including the United States (except for Hawaii and most of Arizona.)

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are some coping strategies you can employ if you care for someone with Sundowner’s:

  • Keep the home well lit in the evening.
  • Keep the sleep environment comfortable and safe. The temperature should be comfortable and nightlights provided for safety when a person gets up in the middle of the night.
  • Maintain a consistent schedule of waking, bedtime and meals.
  • Avoid big dinners, nicotine, alcohol, and restrict sweets and caffeine so as not to interfere with restful sleep.   
  • Plan more active days and discourage afternoon naps..
  • As a caregiver, if you are feeling stressed late in the day, the person may pick up on it. Make sure you get respite help.
  • Share your experience with others.

For those of you who care for Sundown seniors, do you find that extra hour of sunlight helpful? Have you found  any sundowning therapies particularly useful? Share your caregiving strategies for coping with Sundown Syndrome in Caregiverlist’s Caregiver Stories or in the Comments section below.

Book Recommendations and Reading Lists Offered Through App

Reading books can take us to a different fantasy world with dragons and wizards, to a different time period such as Medieval Times or simply into the lives of people like ourselves living now. Books also provide a nice stress reliever for caregivers who need to spend some time unwinding at the end of a long day. The Goodreads app allows senior caregivers to track books they are currently reading, make lists of books they'd like to read and get recommendations for book titles they would likely enjoy. 

The initial profile creation will ask basic questions and for users to rate 20 books that they read previously. Rating books helps the app make quality recommendations based on what a user has liked in the past. Users can scan through provided categories such as Biography, Music, Fantasy, etc. to find titles that they would like to rate. 

The app also features a barcode scan for books using the smartphone camera. Scanning a barcode allows users to then rate the title if read previously, indicate the book as currently reading, or add to the user's individual shelves. The shelves indicate books users would like to read. 

In addition to simply making lists, caregivers can set reading challenges for themselves or for senior clients. Reading serves as a great way for seniors to keep their brain active and help prevent onset of dementia, even if they only read a few chapters of a book each day. Caregivers can help their senior clients set a reading goal for the year, whether it be several books a month or only one book every two months. 

If users would like further reading recommendations beyond the personalized ones in the app, the Best Books of 2014 list is available at the top of the homepage of the app. Users voted on their favorite books in 20 categories and the results are displayed for easy browsing. Any time a user is considering reading a book, they can read not only the publisher's synopsis, but also user reviews about why they did or did not enjoy a particular title. 

The Goodreads app is available for Apple and Android platforms.

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko

Hazy Winter Sunshine in Germany

Caregivers provide companionship to seniors, as well as caregiving and caregivers must remember to "care for the caregiver" with this week's stress relief photo of the week. This week's photo was taken in winter in Trier, Germany. Beautiful scenes can be all around us if we stop and look. Please enjoy and feel free to share it with loved ones. Thank you caregivers and certified nursing aides for your hard work and caring for our seniors. Have a great week.  

Age is Beauty

Youth is beauty. It’s what our society tells us and shows us, from 14-year-old model Roos Abels on Prada’s catwalk to the goofy twenty-year-olds on America’s Next Top Model. It’s fairly common to hear that a model’s career is mostly over by the time they’re 25.

But not always.

Carmen Dell’Orefice, 83, is commonly known as the world’s oldest working model. Although she began her modeling career at the age of 13 (when she posed for Salvador Dali!),  she admits that  to New You magazine that she’s “had more magazine covers in the last 25 years than I have had in my whole elongated career." Over the last few years, she’s made her mark on catwalks around the world, and closed this year’s max.tan show at Digital Fashion Week Singapore.

Céline has made iconic writer Joan Didion, 80, the star of their Spring 2015 campaign. Of course, the decision propelled the fashion house into the limelight, but I applaud anyone who recognizes the beauty of “mature models.” And besides, Joan Didion has always been one of the coolest of the cool girls and that doesn’t change just because you age.

Joan Didion for Céline. Photograph: Céline

Dame Helen Mirren is a relative whippersnapper at 69-years-old. She stars in her first commercial for the L'Oreal Paris' Age Perfect campaign. And yes, the product is designed to target older women, but still, it’s awfully nice to see that beauty is appreciated, even in older women.

Is this a temporary trend? Will older women continue to be celebrated in fashion and beauty? I hope so. As the population ages, the buying public will be an older one. With just about 26 million women over 65 in the U.S. alone, it’s just smart to sell to the demographic.

We at Caregiverlist are great believers in aging well. While exercise and proper nutrition won't give you outstanding cheekbones or a 5'9" frame, you can certainly be your best you at any age.

Dementia Prevention Through Brain Exercise in Memorando App

Preventing dementia or Alzheimer's disease sometimes seems like an abstract idea. It's difficult to know if your efforts are making a difference or to know if you're doing enough to prevent onset. The Memorado app provides brain exercises to help caregivers and their senior clients identify areas of brain activity that they would like to improve and score their results over time.

The app begins by asking users to rank the importance of several different brain functions, such as remembering new names with ease, staying calm in hectic situations, or making fewer errors under pressure. The ranking system uses stars- one star for not very important to three stars for quite important. Once all of the topics have been ranked, the app provides a personalized workout program giving emphasis to areas users most want to improve upon. 

The first concentration game the app presented me called "Paint the Sky" presented me with a set of shapes in different patterns. The goal is to click on the one shape on the screen with a unique color or pattern. The next concentration game called "Stepping Stones"displayed circles across the screen with sequential numbers inside. The app asks users to memorize the numbers in the scattered circles, and then once the numbers disappear users need to click on the circles in sequential order of the numbers that were inside the circles. "Painted Path" to improve logic asks users to color a box with a certain number of moves.  

Other games focus on memory and reaction. The first round of games took less than ten minutes to complete, but taking a little time out over several weeks to play the games provides a solid foundation for improvement in exercising the brain. Users who wish to unlock further games within the app can earn brain points through completing the basic games or upgrade to the paid version of the app.

The Memorado app is available for Apple platforms.

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko

Snow by the Lake: Stress Relief Photo

March is finally upon us, and here in Chicago winter is maintaining a firm grip. At least the days are getting longer. This week's photo was taken along the lakefront in Chicago. Even in the bitter cold, the snow can be so pretty. Please enjoy and feel free to share it with loved ones. At Caregiverliswe know the realities of caregiver stress. Thank you caregivers and certified nursing aides for your hard work and caring for our seniors. Senior care training assists caregivers to better manage a senior's care needs and manage caregiver stress. We hope you have a great week. 

You Are What You Eat: Senior Nutrition

March is National Nutrition Month and an ideal opportunity for senior caregivers to make sure seniors are getting all the proper nutrition they need. It’s easier said than done. As we age, our bodies have a more difficult time absorbing key nutrients. Certain foods can lose their appeal — medications especially can affect appetite or change the way food tastes.

A nutrient-rich diet is more than essential for health maintenance, its a form of preventative medicine. A good diet can help keep common ailments such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems, and high cholesterol at bay. Key nutrients are essential to keep physically and mentally fit.

Unfortunately, according to a report released by AARP, more than 10 million seniors go hungry every day, and it’s likely that “proper nutrient intake suffers when individuals are food insecure.”  What money is available for food should go to the most nutritious foods available — whole, unprocessed foods that are nutrient-dense (and generally low in calories)  are key to senior health.

You can follow the Food Pyramid for Older Adults (Tufts University) or any balanced diet in order to get the proper nutrition. I think it’s key to get your nutrients from whole foods as opposed to relying on supplements. The elderly usually already take so much medication, who wants to take more pills?

The National Institute on Aging has recommendations for eating well as you age. They suggest you plan meals and snacks to include:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains
  • dairy products, especially low-fat or fat-free
  • protein in the form of lean meats and poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, and unsalted nuts
  • limited amounts of solid fats. Keep trans fats to a minimum
  • limited amounts of cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars

Don’t forget to keep hydrated with water or water-rich food such as melons, cucumbers, radishes (!), even if you don’t feel thirsty.

The NIA also suggests any seniors with high blood pressure or hypertension consider the DASH diet, which I previously wrote about here.

Caregiverlist knows senior caregivers are integral to helping the elderly to eat right and age well. You can learn basic caregiving skills by taking our 8-hour online Caregiver Certification training course provided by Caregiverlist Training University.

Log in