Besides medications, there are a few treatments for sundowners elderly patients. Music has been used in nursing homes for many years to help calm agitated behavior. Other sounds that sometimes help are recordings of ocean waves or singing birds.
In studies where soothing touch was used to calm a person with Sundowner’s, it only seemed to work with those who were not angry or violent. You can try hand holding, hand massage, or affectionate touch if your loved one isn’t in an angry state.
Some people have even tried aromatherapy treatments to calm agitation, and more and more nursing homes bring animals into the facility to interact with the patients. The results have been very positive. Reminiscing with your loved one may also be helpful as long as it evokes positive memories from the past.
Herbs such as Ginkgo Biloba and St. John’s Wort have been used to assist patients with dementia and Sundowning Syndrome, as well as Vitamin E, but these may or may not offer some subtle decrease in symptoms. Again, the treatment depends very much upon the individual. Currently, medical marijuana is being considered as a proposed treatment for dementia by some doctors.
Light therapy can be especially helpful when used as a treatment for sundowners in elderly patients, although again, it may or may not diminish symptoms, depending upon the individual. Lightboxes are available that mimic sunlight. The person with Sundowners must sit close to the light for a period of time, although they can do so while watching television, reading, eating, etc. The lightbox is probably best used in the morning hours and can make a big difference if the Sundown patient also suffers from depression.
When You Need Help
No matter how much you want to care for your loved one with Sundowner’s Syndrome, it may eventually become too difficult for you to do so. If that is the case, there are numerous wonderful facilities that will serve as a permanent home for your loved one. These facilities are well-trained to deal with dementia symptoms. In fact, there are special units for the care of Alzheimer’s patients. They are specifically designed to maintain safety and prevent agitation as much as possible.
The social interaction available in nursing facilities is often very beneficial to patients with dementia and Sundowning. Wandering becomes much less dangerous in institutional settings where doors are locked and staff is always available.
If your loved one has lost control of bodily functions, this is one of the hardest things to manage at home. If a person isn’t washed immediately after urinating or defecating, skin infections can develop quickly. There is also an enormous risk of life-threatening bed sores if a patient gets to the point where they are bedridden. In such cases, patients may need to be turned on an hourly basis to prevent bed sores.
If you need help but don’t want to place your loved one in a nursing home, you may be able to locate a home health aide for when you’re at work or even an adult daycare center, which are beginning to sprout up all over the country.
If money is an issue, check into government programs which might help you. Medicaid can often pay for assistance, even in the home.
Whatever you do, make sure you have a support system. Treatment for Sundowners in elderly patients is extremely stressful, and in order to take care of your loved one, you must also take care of yourself.