November 6th is the official end to Daylights Savings Time, the time when we turn our clocks back and lose an hour of sunlight each day. For many people, this tradition of “fall back,” or turning the clocks back an hour, translates to a much-needed extra hour in their daily routine. But for seniors, particularly those with Alzheimer’s dementia, time changes can be particularly stressful.
Studies have shown that turning the clocks back in the fall (or ahead in the spring) results in a disruption in sleep patterns for many adults-particularly those in their senior years. According to Sharon Roth-Maguire, M.S. R.N., “Sleep fragmentation is already typical among older adults—particularly those who have chronic health conditions,” “Even small changes in sleep patterns can have significant consequences for senior health,” says Roth-Maguire.
For those with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), maintaining a rigid daily routine may help prevent confusion. Even the smallest changes can be stressful causing disorientation and confusion. There is also a specific cluster of behaviors referred to as “sundowning” that affects many individuals with AD. Sundowning oftentimes causes confusion, particularly as daylight starts to fade. Learn more about sundowning and other topic for Alzheimer’s caregivers by CLICKING HERE to join our FREE 25 lesson course at AlzU.org.
In general, changes can be stressful for those with AD dementia. Many are already confused about the time of day, particularly when it gets dark as early as 4:30 p.m. during winter months. While there are many factors that can worsen symptoms of sundowning, changes in natural light can make matters worse.
When Daylight Savings Time occurs, dinner time may now take place after the sun sets instead of during the natural light hours of the day. Some experts recommend adjusting the daily schedule, for those with dementia, to reflect the same conditions as before Daylight Savings Time. For example, schedule dinner an hour earlier so you are finished before it gets dark. Subtle adjustments such as this can help your loved one with AD to adapt easier to changes that can’t be avoided such as Daylight Savings Time.
Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease by joining our 25-lesson course at AlzU.org today.