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The Impact of Shorter Days for Seniors



As autumn begins, the weather and leaves are changing around us, and so is the amount of sunlight we are seeing throughout the day. Less daylight and colder temperatures have been proven to have negative effects on an individual’s mood, ability to focus, and day-to-day productivity level. For many of us, it might take awhile to get back into a daily rhythm. For seniors who are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, the shorter days can lead to a condition known as sundowning. Sundowning is restlessness, agitation, irritability, or confusion that can worsen as daylight begins to fade. The cause of sundowning for seniors with dementia and memory loss is not yet fully understood, but according to the National Institute of Aging (NIA), dementia-related brain changes can affect a person’s “biological clock”. At Harmony Senior Services, we realize the impacts of shorter days for our residents living in memory care and adjust their daily routines accordingly. While there is no one way to “cure” sundowning for those dealing with memory loss, there are techniques to try to help manage any negative effects. It is important to learn what works best for your loved one so you can individualize a care plan for their unique needs. 


Maintaining a Sleep Schedule and Daily Routine

With the amount of sunlight reducing and days becoming darker earlier, seniors may want to go to sleep earlier or sleep in more. It is beneficial for those with dementia to maintain a consistent daily schedule so they can expect the same things at the same time each day. There is an overall sense of comfort for seniors in elder care when they stick to a routine in their communities. Incorporating engaging and guiding events throughout the beginning, middle, and end of the day, helps to direct one’s internal clock to respond more timely. 

Eating a Balanced Diet

While sticking to a daily activity routine, it is also important for seniors to have a consistent dining schedule supplemented with additional vitamins and nutrients to compensate for any seasonal deficiencies due to the time change. When the days get darker, it also becomes colder, which means the flu season or general illness occurs more often. Memory care residents should have a balanced diet with increased fruits, vegetables, vitamins, and minerals to boost their immune systems to stay healthy and happy during the colder months. 

Get as much Sunlight as Possible

Let in as much natural light as you can during the day. Open windows in sunrooms, brightly lit common areas, and therapeutic spaces with artificial lights are excellent ways to deter the effects of sundowning throughout the day. Seniors in memory care need extra activity, warmth, and light during the shorter and colder days to help maintain their cognitive wellbeing. Take the time to help your loved ones stay active by going on short walks outside to get some fresh air and Vitamin D!

Participate in Physical Activity

Staying active and getting regular daily exercise is just as important during the fall and winter seasons. It may become more difficult for outdoor activities due to the weather change, but there are plenty of indoor exercises seniors can participate in to stay engaged. Seated movement classes, stretching and low-impact yoga are great ways to get the body moving while exploring the Great Indoors. These exercises will help boost an individual’s mood and keep them active while avoiding symptoms of sundowning for those with dementia and memory loss. 

At Harmony Senior Services, we take extra precautions to prevent the negative impacts of seasonal changes, such as Sundowning, for our residents. For more information visit the Alzheimer’s Association educational portal to learn more about the effects of sundowning for those with dementia or contact us today to see how our Harmony caregivers can provide the best care for your loved ones!