Daylight Savings Time Can Have Big Impact on those with Alzheimer’s
Daylight saving time ends on the first Sunday in November, when clocks are moved back an hour at 2 a.m. local daylight time (so they will then read 1 a.m. local standard time).
Most people who observe daylight savings time, look forward to the “extra” hour in the fall when we turn the clocks back 1 hour. However, if you are a caregiver or family member caring for a loved one with dementia, you may not be all that excited about the time change.
Often referred to as the “body clock”, the circadian rhythm is a cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep, rise, eat–regulating many physiological processes. This internal body clock is affected by environmental cues, like sunlight and temperature.
When one’s circadian rhythm is disrupted, sleeping and eating patterns can run amok. This is exactly what happens during the change in time of daylight savings. When we have a big change in the daylight cycle, it can cause major confusion for those with dementia.
What happens during daylight savings?
Besides the clock changing, the time of sunrise and sunset also change. An hour can seem like an eternity for someone who lives on a very strict schedule. The weather is usually changing at the same time as daylight savings change. The adjustment to our internal clock, the change in amount of sunlight and in temperature all play a role in confusing our body and mind.
Add all that confusion to someone with dementia who already may be confused, over stimulated, and feels a loss of control. Needless to say, it can be very overwhelming.
How do I know if my loved one is affected by Daylight Savings Time?
Signs of confusion in the evening when the sun is setting
Disruption in sleeping patterns
Going to bed sooner
Hungry earlier than normal
Overwhelmed or exhausted
Those who have experienced Sundowners in the past may show even more confusion and agitation during this time change
What can I do to help my loved one adjust to the time change?
Try to expose them to as much daylight as possible
Occupy the person with memory loss (preferably with something fun) while the sun is setting.
Keep the home well-lit after dark
Be aware of shadows from the change in light; how the sunlight shines in your home in spring and fall is different than how it enters your home in the summer.
Maintain their sleep schedule as close as possible
Be aware of routine times before the time change and adjust slightly for a few days. (Example: Meal time used to be at 5pm, with a daylight change back 1 hour, the body will likely be hungry around 4. Adjust the meal slightly by 10-15 minutes or so until you are back to meal time of 5 pm.)
Bathroom routines are also affected by the time change. Adjust bathroom visits accordingly.
Stay away from sleep disrupters like caffeine, alcohol, naps or over the counter sleeping aids especially the days surrounding daylight savings time.
Keep evening routines on schedule. Adjust the timing slightly for a few days (just like the meal example above) to help get back on track.
Most importantly, be patient. Remember that it takes average adults several days for the body and mind to adjust to the changes from daylight savings. Being aware of your loved one’s challenges with the change and taking care of yourself will help everyone adjust to the change quicker.
For more information about dementia and local services call Memory Matters Utah/Nevada at 435-319-0407. Memory Matters is a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization providing services in southern Utah and Mesquite, Nevada.