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Halifax Seniors Care: But It’s Only an Hour

Posted Mar 11, 2016

DaylightSavingsNap (1)It’s all about sleep, light and our internal clocks… Daylight Savings is hazardous to our health and can cause great confusion when it comes to seniors with dementia.

It has been shown that auto accidents go up by 17% after the switchover to Daylight Savings and it is linked to an increased risk of stroke.

University of Turku (Finland) studies showed that for the 2 days following the time change, the rate of Ischemic Stroke increases by 8%. We already know that our circadian (internal) clocks are affected by time disruptions when it comes to rotating shift work, etc. but now it is evident that even the slightest change of one hour can still have a dramatic effect on us.

Those of us here, dealing within the Halifax homecare industry, have noticed that resetting the clock and changing the time for darkness can strongly affect moods and anxiety levels in clients, especially those suffering Sundowner’s Syndrome. This applies to both “Spring forward” and “Fall back”.

The human brain works better in daylight. Even healthy people get moody, depressed or more anxious at night – it’s the basic animal instinct for survival.

In the case of sundowning clients, we notice more pacing, agitation and behavioural issues during the dark hours.

It’s a combination of the confusion of the switch and the lost hours of sleep over a few days following the changeover that are the two main issues.

Seniors tend to suffer fragmented sleep patterns as it is, particularly those with health issues. The loss of sleep can make a big difference with awareness – more confusion when it comes to meds and it puts them at a higher risk for falls.

It takes a few days for most of us to adjust to the time change and longer for our seniors.

Tips for adjusting:

1)   Stick to routine. Vary bedtime and wake up time by no more than 20 minutes. Despite the time change, this will help keep you on track.2)   Get some sun. Light suppresses the production of Melatonin (the sleep inducing substance in our bodies) So during light hours, it is important to expose yourself to light during the waking hours and, conversely, do not expose yourself to bright light while it’s dark outside

2)   Get some sun. Light suppresses the production of Melatonin (the sleep inducing substance in our bodies) So during light hours, it is important to expose yourself to light during the waking hours and, conversely, do not expose yourself to bright light while it’s dark outside

3)   Raising body temperature in the late afternoon or early evening and then gradually lowering it before bedtime helps produce melatonin for sleep – So… have a warm bath or get some exercise and then relax before bed.

4)   Help with sleep, be sure the sleep environment (new catch phrase is “sleep hygiene”) is conducive to sleep. Is it dark enough, cool enough or, most importantly for seniors, quiet enough? Seniors are more apt to be awoken by night time noises.

So… I know that those of us in the Nova Scotia homecare industry will be on the lookout for some of the behaviours accompanying the changeover and will try to help our clients with the adjustment. Hope this has helped you too. I’m off to a hot bath!

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