Dementia gets worse at night - Can joining hands with technology ease dementia risks?
If you thought dementia is the name of a specific disease, you’re wrong as it is an umbrella term which is used to describe a group of symptoms which are related to decline in cognitive skills like memory power or thinking abilities. This cognitive impairment also tends to affect the ability of a person to perform daily activities. Alzheimer’s is a disease which accounts for almost 80% these cases and vascular dementia which occurs post a stroke is the second-most common kind of dementia. However, there are several other conditions like vitamin deficiencies and thyroid issues which can also lead to dementia.
It is seen that in many patients suffering from dementia, the transition from day to night can gradually get pretty difficult. This syndrome is known as the sundowning syndrome and it is marked by a noteworthy change in behavior that is characterized by anxiety, agitation and confusion. There are not many researches on this and hence doctors are still not sure about the causes of this syndrome. The best thing that a dementia carer can do is to predict the changes in behavior and have a plan to address the changes in mind.
Sundowning – Why does this happen?
Although the causes of sundowning are difficult to analyze, there is one theory which says that dementia always has an adverse impact on the circadian rhythm of human brain. This means that the people who suffer from dementia will face trouble in deciding the difference between day and night. This problem can get aggravated during alterations in the clocks, when daylight is suddenly lost or when it is extended.
One more cause behind this syndrome might be because the requirements of the person are not being fulfilled. They might be feeling dehydrated or hungry or bored but they are not able to express what they feel. The few things which all of us might have trouble adjusting to,can aggravate when the person is suffering from dementia. Moreover, it is sad enough to note that the older generation can’t express their thoughts and needs.
People suffering from dementia are usually extremely habituated with their environment and they can get stressed out too soon whenever there are even small changes which might occur due to sundowning. In case they live within an assisted home care facility, changes in shift can make them feel agitated. Overstimulation due to television sound or noisy children can also trigger symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of sundowning
You might be eager to know the typical symptoms which are associated with sundowning and here are some of them:
- Irritability and agitation
- Tendency of wandering and loitering around
- Arguing and shouting
- Reduced awareness of where they’re residing
- Restlessness and fidgeting
- Ransacking through rooms and drawers
Though sundowning is generally linked with increased and haphazard activity, there are again some people who can become withdrawn and quiet due to this syndrome. In case your patient begins sundowning suddenly, this can be a big concern for the caregiver. Suppose your family member never had symptoms of sundowning and he suddenly faces it, you should watch out for other issues like constipation or infection.
Coping with sleep issues and sundowning – Few strategies
Being the caregiver, it is your responsibility to be aware of the coping strategies when your loved one is suffering from sundowning symptoms. So, take a look at the different steps to take ease off the symptoms.
1. Keep rooms well lit at night: As soon as the sun is down, you should make sure there are sufficient lights in your home. It is only when your home is well-lit that your loved one will feel comfortable at home. He shouldn’t feel unfamiliar with the surroundings.
2. Follow a schedule: Being the caregiver, you should always motivate the person suffering from dementia to abide by regular routine of going to bed, waking up on time and eating on time. When they follow a schedule, they will get sound sleep at night.
3. Arrange a safe sleep environment: The sleeping area of the person should have a comfortable temperature. Make sure you install night lamps inside the rooms of the person so that he feels safe in case he gets up at night. You can also install motion detectors and door sensors to alert family members whenever they keep wandering
4. Avert all types of stimulants: Try to either reduce or avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol as all these can negatively affect your ability to sleep. If there are periods of wakefulness at night, don’t engage in watching television as this too is stimulating.
5. Consult with a doctor: You must be consulting with a doctor about the symptoms and issues that you’re going through. If you’re suffering from sleep disturbances, make sure you speak with a doctor who can help you in identifying the reasons behind sleep disturbances and the viable solutions. Majority of the doctors will recommend non-drug measures.
6. Plan active days: A person who takes rest throughout the day will most likely remain awake at night. Hence, if you don’t want your patient to remain active at night, plan more challenging jobs all over the day like bathing trips in the morning,doctor appointments and early afternoon activities. You should also encourage your patient to engage in regular exercise.
7. Be careful about your own health: The caregiver is often the person who takes most of the stress on behalf of the patient. If you feel stressed by the afternoon, your loved one might pick up on it and begin to feel confused and agitated. Make sure you get enough rest at night so that you can retain your energy during the day.
8. Share things with others: There are online support communities and message boards where you can share your experiences and wait for responses. Getting ideas from other caregivers is most often helpful.
What to do if the person is awake yet upset?
- Approach him in a calm and composed tone
- Enquire whether there is anything that your loved one needs
- Avoid any situations where you will need to argue
- Remind him gently about the time of the day
- Reassure that things will be alright
- In case the person needs to pace, let this continue under monitoring
Could technology help people with dementia stay in their homes?
Dementia has an impact on increasingly large number of people and the widespread of this degenerative disease has had a disturbing impact on the nation’s economy. The expenditure on dementia is now greater than strokes, cancer and heart issues. However, thanks to the integrated technological gadgets that people are now allowed to live independently. They could also reduce the burden that this disease places on individuals, healthcare system, networks of home care and families.
Let’s take a look at the different technology devices which are designed for dementia patients.
#1: Clocks for dementia
Did you know that there are clocks which have been specifically tailored to meet the anxiety needs of people suffering from dementia? There are many who get anxious after the sun sets and this is known as the sundowning syndrome. Anyone who faces confusion in differentiating between night and day can check this easy-to-read clock which can let them understand what time of the day it is. The caregivers can also use the clock to set a routine.
#2: GPS tracking and location devices
Location tracking devices are extremely necessary for dementia patients as there are many who tend to wander here and there at night. You as a caregiver should attach these GPS devices and alert systems on to the clothes of the patient so that even if they wander around,you can find them out. Such technology devices can even alert emergency people to make sure the patient has a speedy and safe recovery.
#3: Electrical appliances for monitoring
This is a new piece of technology which is designed specifically for the caregivers who don’t live in close proximity with their loved ones. These devices will monitor the use of electrical appliances by either a wall outlet or a power strip that will warn the caregivers whenever the commonly used gadgets aren’t turned on. This makes diagnosing dementia easy. Though it is true that dementia is a devastating disease yet with the invention of these devices, the disease gets more manageable than before.
#4: Home monitoring gadgets
The home monitoring gadgets let the lights to be turned on and off, change the status of the thermostats and also allow a wide range of safety measurements which sends alerts through a smartphone. For long distance caregivers, these devices are extremely helpful as most caregivers, regardless of where they stay, wish to ensure the safety of their loved ones.
#5: Home care robots
With the progress in technology, researchers are looking forward to home care robots which can help in relieving the burden of the caregivers. These robots have been created in order to help human caregivers and not replace them. The robots can remind people to take medicines on time, warn medical professionals if there is help needed. Though these robots aren’t yet in the market, but they can soon become the gadgets of the future.
#6: In-home cameras
Yet another great way of making sure that your loved one is safe in spite of not staying with him is by installing home cameras. You can keep few cameras focused on the main living room or on the meditation room so that you can remain confident about whether or not the person is taking his medicines on time and whether he is active. There are even cameras which let you speak with the person and monitor his movements. You can also get alerts whenever there are no movements detected for a certain span of time.
#7: Management of medication
Are you aware of what medication management is? It is a technology which is almost similar to pillbox which is marked with the days of a week. These are automated pill dispensers which open to remind the caregivers that their patients need to take a medicine. There are even some medication reminders which vibrate on your watch. This technology serves the purpose of a caregiver who is busy with several other tasks.
#8: Voice recognition tech
When someone is suffering from Alzheimer’s, there’s nothing more comforting like the sound of someone loved. There is an app in Android which lets you record a voice and then play it later on while taking pills, drinking water or turning off lights. Whenever the patient hears a familiar voice speaking to him about daily tasks, the voice can be less disturbing than an alert or an alarm. With this kind of soothing effect, it is seen to improve cognitive impairment. This Android app can also record the reaction of the user and show it to the patients. You can test the device for free but in order to use it, you have to spend $10.
Tech and behavioral management
The latest studies have offered enough evidence on the advantages of non-medicated treatments which manage difficult behaviors and agitation of the patients suffering from dementia. According to a study, it was concluded that treatments which used music, vibrating tube, solar effects projector, fiber optic string light or a plasma ball were all helpful in boosting the span of attention, improving restlessness, impulsiveness and other such negative feelings.The caregivers too gained satisfaction with such an experience and believed that this kind of multi-sensory technology reduced agitation and anxiety among recipients of care.
As we see, there is still much more work that requires being done in order to revolutionize dementia care for your relatives and family members. Amidst all this, an integrated system of technologies would let you offer sensitive and affordable care to allow people with dementia to live a healthier and more independent life. Hence, keep in mind all the above listed technological advancements in order to use them as needed.
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