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Tips: Helping a Loved One with Dementia Adjust to Daylight Saving Time

The Daylight Saving Time switch has been blamed for many negative side effects in the population, from sleep deprivation and headaches, to lost productivity and a spike in traffic accidents.

What many don’t realize is the profound effect that the time change has on Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers, for whom a regular schedule is critical to quality of life. The time change causes confusion and can increase behaviours known as “sundowning,” which includes acting out, general aggression, a tendency to wander away, and increased feelings of depression and anxiety.

Coreena Roberston, founder of Intellicare and Boomerang LIFE, has four tips for those who want to help a loved one with dementia make a positive adjustment Daylight Saving Time:

  1. 1. Make the transition gradual. The sudden loss of a full hour is difficult to cope with. To address this, on the first day of Daylight Saving Time, allow your loved one to sleep for 45 minutes past their usual wake up time. On subsequent days, gradually move wake up time ahead by 15-minute intervals until the desired wake-up time is reached.
  2. 2. Engage with your loved one. Take extra time to engage your loved one in the days following the time change. This is especially important around meal times, when what their body is telling them may not match what the clock says. Turn on their favourite TV show or play a game to help focus their attention.
  3. 3. Relax into sleep. As the name suggests, “sundowning” happens in the early evening. To keep sundowning behaviour at bay, choose an activity to engage them with, but make it something calming such as listening to soft music and or sipping a warm beverage together. This will also help your loved one prepare for going to bed an hour earlier than usual.
  4. 4. Be present. Meet your loved one in the moment they are experiencing, everyday. Join them in their journey by validating what they are saying. Don’t try to correct their ‘stories’.

Coreena Robertson is the founder of Intellicare and creator of Boomerang LIFE products. She is the Communications and Recreation Wellness Director at Fraserview Care Lodge in Richmond, B.C. Robertson has dedicated more than 20 years to helping those afflicted with memory challenges in intermediate care.

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