Reduce Elderly Anxiety at Night

How Caregivers Can Help Reduce Elderly Anxiety at Night

Last updated on February 14, 2022

Facing reality is tough. Your aging parent needs you more than ever. Maybe Mom gets confused and moody, especially in the evenings. Or, you've had to keep a watchful eye on Dad, because he is now prone to agitation and pacing at night.

Of course, you’ll naturally worry about Mom or Dad, especially at night. You don’t want your elderly loved one to suffer anxiety alone. But like many adult children, you can’t stay overnight at his or her house.

Meantime, it’s likely Mom or Dad’s “Sundowning” syndrome will worsen. Sundowning behaviors may indicate dementia or the beginning of Alzheimer's. “Up to one out of five people with Alzheimer’s get sundown syndrome. But it can also happen to older people who don’t have dementia,” according to WebMD.

Don’t wait. Be prepared now to get professional help for Mom or Dad, because if your loved one is experiencing these symptoms, his or her chances of falling are on the rise.

What is Sundowning

Sundowning describes mental and behavioral changes in your elderly loved one when the sun goes down. The symptoms include confusion, anxiety and aggression. These changes usually occur in the late afternoon or evening. According to the Mayo Clinic, Sundowning may be triggered by diminished exposure to light. Other triggers may be pain, hunger, thirst and discomfort due to illness or boredom, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The exact cause of Sundowning has not been identified.

Signs of Sundowning are:

  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression (yelling)
  • Ignoring directions
  • Pacing or wandering

If you notice any of these symptoms, caring for your senior will become much harder than you think. As uncomfortable as it may be, you must be prepared for Mom or Dad's Sundowning to worsen. By just living longer, your elderly loved one increases the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s. “Demand for elder care will also be fueled by a steep rise in the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, which could nearly triple by 2050 to 14 million,” according to Population Reference Bureau.

If your senior has Alzheimer's, the evenings can be chronically difficult. "Individuals with [Alzheimer's Disease] are not able to react to pain or other physical discomforts in standard ways, as well as to relate to their body properly. That is why elderly demented patients often use aggression and other behaviors, such as yelling, screaming and refusing to eat to express pain or other physical symptoms,” according to the Psychiatry Investigation medical article, Sundown Syndrome in Persons with Dementia: An Update.

If this sounds familiar, you should give serious consideration to bringing in an outside resource. The help can range from a few hours to overnight care. Creating the plan now will significantly reduce stress later. A professional caregiver can help manage Mom or Dad’s Sundowning symptoms.

Home Care Services Enhance Comfort

A home care provider brings a trained professional into the senior’s living space. This approach maximizes comfort for the elderly loved one. Seniors would like to ‘age in place.’ They desire to stay inside the home. According to a joint report by the Home Care Association of America and Global Coalition on Aging: “Nine out of ten Americans 65 and older want to stay at home for as long as possible, and 80 percent think their current home is where they will always live.”

When confusion or anxiety strikes, Mom or Dad will be exceedingly agitated. It's important to bring back familiar objects or reminders of a positive, home atmosphere. A professional caregiver would initiate the dialogue to calm the elderly’s anxiety at night. Family photos or a relaxing song may help soothe the senior during Sundowning.

A trained companion will approach the stressed senior with patience. The professional caregiver understands Sundowning and dementia care.

A Diet to Reduce Anxiety

Mood swings may signal a need for food or drink. "In case of agitation due to hunger, or thirst, just offering food, snack or something to drink may ease discomfort and reduce behavioral disruption," per the Psychiatry Investigation medical article, Sundown Syndrome in Persons with Dementia: An Update.The home care professional will watch for signs. Meantime, your elderly loved one can adopt an eating plan. The professional caregiver can routinely prepare the meals so Mom or Dad won’t be at risk of anxiety because of poor diet.

Meanwhile, certain drinks may trigger irritation. Thus, caffeine and alcohol should be avoided during afternoons or evenings. You can rely on a professional caregiver to monitor your aging parent. Additionally, the caring home companion can also drive and assist in buying groceries. You can be more at ease when Mom or Dad has a well-stocked fridge and pantry.

Healthy Sleep Hygiene For Your Senior

Sundowning disrupts the sleep cycle in your elderly loved one. Poor sleep may lead to more anxiety. So it’s critical to break unhealthy sleep habits. The professional caregiver can establish an evening routine to fight Sundowning and negative moods in the senior.

For example, a professional caregiver will create a relaxing home environment with music therapy. In addition, lifestyle adjustments will help encourage calmness in the senior. No upsetting, violent TV shows. “Some frightening or violent events depicted on television may be very stressful and disturbing for cognitively impaired individuals, as they may believe that these events are happening to them in reality. As a result, these patients may express their fears in the form of agitation, confusion, or violence,” per the Psychiatry Investigation medical article, Sundown Syndrome in Persons with Dementia: An Update.

Be proactive. Start planning now. A professional caregiver has the training to offer daily assistance and vital respite care for you. Sundowning doesn’t have to rob you of peace of mind; professional support can help you sleep better at night knowing your loved one has someone there to manage the Sundowning symptoms.

For more information on how helpful home care can be, especially when traveling with a loved one enduring these symptoms, read how home care enables holiday travel with your senior loved one.

If you're interested in our compassionate home care services for you or a loved one, contact your nearest Visiting Angels home care agency today or call 800-365-4189.
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