Dementia and Daylight Saving
The clocks are going forward on 29th March. In these uncertain times of lockdowns and huge changes to the way we go about our daily lives, the thought of more light and sunshine in our days is cheering. And whilst many of us are lifted by the longer days and lighter evenings that herald the changing of the seasons, some of us find the time-shift and difference in light levels disturbing.
This is especially true in those living with dementia. And if it wasn’t already a strange and confusing enough time living life in the shadow of Covid-19, for home carers and care providers looking after those with dementia, the clocks going forward is a time for extra vigilance. Time changes can be unsettling. The importance of a steady routine should not be under-estimated – any disruptions to normal daily cycles can cause anxiety for those with dementia.
So, what can we do to help prevent the clocks changing from causing problems for those with dementia?
We asked Beth Britton, one of the UK’s leading Dementia Campaigners what she had to say on the subject:
“For many people with dementia their routine is very important to them and changing the clocks by an hour can interfere with their ‘body clock’ leading to problems with sleep patterns and other elements of daily life, like mealtimes. It can also lead to confusion and distress if the person cannot understand why their routine is suddenly working to a different timeframe. This can be exacerbated if the person is feeling tired from losing an hour in their day when the clocks move forward to begin British Summer Time (BST).
Are there benefits?
“Of course, increased daylight can be helpful in terms of the feelgood factor natural light provides, along with opportunities to be more active outside and absorb some natural vitamin D when the longer, sunnier days arrive. But with longer days come other issues, including light coming into the bedroom too early in the morning and waking the person before they’ve had enough sleep, making items like blackout curtains invaluable.”
Another aspect worth considering is the effect clock changes have on Sundown Syndrome, the condition experienced by many with dementia. Characterised by pronounced anxiety, agitation and confusion around about the time the sun goes down, Sundowning Syndrome can be exacerbated by changes in light levels. The causes of Sundown Syndrome aren’t clear but it could be connected to tiredness towards the end of the day, hunger, thirst or pain. They may feel confused about where they are, the shadows drawing in may cause them to be fearful and they may become upset and anxious about who is in the house, for example. It is a common experience for people to feel a strong sense of being in the wrong place,and needing to ‘go home’ – even when they are at home. It is estimated around 1 in 5 people with dementia experience Sundown Syndrome to different degrees.
You can help try to relieve upset and disorientation caused by sundown syndrome in the following ways:
- Stick to a regular routine in spite of the clocks changing.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sleeping during the day.
- Spend time outside in natural daylight – this helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythms.
- Close curtains/blinds towards night-time to try and make the transition from day to night smooth.
- Reduce reflections inside the house by covering mirrors and windows – reflections can be confusion for those with dementia.
- Eat larger meals in the daytime and smaller snacks in the evening to minimise disruption to sleep
- Follow an evening routine with enjoyable activities such as watching a favourite TV show, listening to music – choose something calming that won’t cause alarm.
Soon the joys of Spring will be upon us and the longer days full of light and sunshine – help those with dementia to maximise their benefit from this change in the seasons, by following the steps above.
And if in the meantime you require assistance for your social care company in the area of Covid-19, we provide a comprehensive support pack including multiple policies and resources specifically written to be relevant to the unique situation we find ourselves in. Fully up-to-date and in accordance with latest regulations and guidance, from BCPs to PPE, our Coronavirus Support Pack gives you peace of mind at a worrying time. Give our friendly team a call on 0115 896 3999 to discuss. Don’t forget, our Tender Writing teams are still on hand to write compelling bids for social care – so if there is a particular contract you have your eye on either now or for the future, get in touch and we can make a plan.