According to Alzheimer’s Association caretaker Luciana Cramer: “never run out of ice cream” is the advice she gives to those dealing with senior citizens who have meltdowns at sundown. Is it possible that it is this easy? Perhaps. The recommendations in this article can help caregivers and those with dementia who are suffering from Sundown Syndrome aka Sundowning.
Sundown Syndrome is a condition affecting approximately 66 percent of Alzheimer’s patients.
It is possible for a person that is experiencing Sundowning experience hallucinations, extreme shifts in mood, and become distrustful, demanding, and even violent. In addition to increased agitation, pacing, confusion, disorientation, anxiety, and disorientation are also some of the symptoms of Sundown Syndrome.
There is a possibility that the person with dementia will yell and scream, get disoriented, and reject attempts to reorient them. This is very tough for caregivers and family members to deal with when this occurs.
Sundowning is a state of confusion one experiences in the afternoon. You can notice changes in the person’s behaviour in the late afternoon or evening. Sometimes these changes can be subtle. For example, the individual could experience acute anxiety, agitation, hallucinations, or delusions during this moment.
This is commonly referred to as “sundowning,” however it is not necessarily associated with the sun going down or restricted to the late afternoon or evening hours. Although sundowning can occur at any stage of dementia, it is most prevalent during the middle stage and latter stages of the disease.
Although the origins of sundowning are unknown, it is conceivable that a wide range of factors makes it more likely. A few examples could be:
- Unmet physical requirements such as exhaustion, hunger, or discomfort
- A lack of sunlight exposure during the day
- Daytime overstimulation, such as that caused by busy or noisy surroundings
- Harm to the brain that throws off a person’s internal clock
- Hormone levels that fluctuate throughout the day
- Loss of hearing or eyesight
- Other people’s exhaustion prompts the dementia patient to get agitated
- Anxiety and depression
- Fewer caregivers to look after them in a home
- The side effects of prescribed medication
It doesn’t matter what time of day it is; some of these can happen at any moment. First, find out which of these issues is causing the person’s symptoms, as each one may require a different approach to treatment.
How Can Ice-Cream Help People With Dementia?
Dementia impairs a person’s ability to process information in their brain. A person with dementia may find it difficult to carry out simple daily tasks, even if they were enjoyable before the onset of the disease. So, organizing a get-together with friends and family, making a meal, preparing for a weekend getaway, or going to the grocery with a list can all be stressful and irritating for someone with dementia.
As a result of daily routines, there is a loss in the ability to stay awake for long periods.
Dementia causes the brain to exhaust earlier, making it more difficult to process information at the end of the day. Consequently, a large number of people display indicators of fatigue.
When someone has Alzheimer’s, they get more irritated by everyday situations. Instead of allowing irritation to build up, persons who suffer from this condition should be able to recognize when they are becoming frustrated. And then participate in self-soothing actions like taking a break, meditating, or taking charge.
However, as dementia progresses, these emotions are more difficult to manage and cope with.
As dementia progresses, it becomes more difficult for the person living with dementia to effectively manage how they react to frustration. As a result, they will show it in some way, and you may see behavioural episodes occur because they are having difficulty coping with and/or expressing their emotions verbally.
To help our loved ones with dementia, we have to try to figure out what is causing the frustrations. Unfortunately, it gets more difficult for those who are living with dementia to take the initiative and see the bigger picture on their own.
Thus, to cope with their anxiety and worries, they rely on their caregivers. Assisting the person with dementia into a calmer, happier, and more relaxed state requires your assistance. Here are a few tips that may be helpful.
1. Determine And Reduce Potential Stressors Before Moving on to The Next Phase
Take charge by figuring out what’s wrong. A safe atmosphere is one where people feel comfortable. Is there something in particular that is stressing them out? If they are unable to express this verbally, are they demonstrating any nonverbal signs like crying if they may be in pain?
Is your loved one startled by seeing something that’s not really there? (hallucination) If this is the case, trying our best to make them feel safe is necessary. Even though we may know this is not real, for them, this is very real.
2. Reassure Them
Make sure they know it’s alright by saying, “You are safe with me. Assure them that everything is fine, that you are here with them, that you will assist them, and that you love them with sincere words of comfort. They’ll be happy to see you smile at them, and they will cuddle up to you.
Reassurance from a loved one is a strong antidote for those with Alzheimer’s disease. For them, it is a welcome break from the world of dementia, when isolation, doubt, and disorientation are the norm. Despite their inability to understand what is going on rationally, people with dementia appreciate being comforted by others’ actions and words. Getting reassurance from you will make things better for them.
3. The Final Step is Ice Cream!
There is no doubt about it: yes, ice cream. Ice cream can be very nostalgic! Each of us probably has our favourite flavour, which is calming and delectable. When people with dementia think of ice cream, they recall brighter, warmer days spent with family and friends. A single spoonful of ice cream can instantaneously soothe the soul.
Whenever you get a new scoop, it stimulates pleasure receptors in the brain, erasing all the frustration-related unpleasant feelings.
When you think of ice cream, you think of good memories that you can bring back with you. Use it to calm a restless mind and promote positive emotions. It’s a great way for caregivers to get their loved ones to focus on something else, like something more uplifting.
Figure out what flavour your loved one’s favourite ice cream is, and make sure you never run out of it while caring for them if they have dementia. If your loved one has dietary restrictions, check out some brands that can be best suited for that individual’s needs. A wide variety of diabetic-friendly products can be found.
The Bottom Line
Sundowning tends to repeat itself at a similar time each day and in the same place. Ask your doctor to check for infections (particularly urinary tract infections) or dehydration if the behaviour is new and appears to have come on suddenly.
When caring for a patient with dementia, caregivers need to be on the lookout for signs of pain, such as arthritis, constipation, or heartburn. In addition, chronic disorders such as diabetes, heart, liver, and renal disease can produce agitation in patients with delirium. The doctor should also examine medications to rule out any possible combinations that could exacerbate the symptoms of agitation.