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This weekend, we’ll gain back an hour of sleep as daylights savings time ends. Along with the time change, it’s important to remember the change that daylight savings could bring to your older loved ones’ routines. As sleeping and waking cycles become harder to adjust as we age, adding an extra hour to the day can feel more disruptive than beneficial for older adults. This is especially true for individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia, who thrive on rigid sleeping and waking schedules.

How should seniors and their families approach the end of daylight savings? Below, Senior Day Services social worker Julie Condrad shares three tips to help older adults and their caregivers make the transition as smooth as possible.

1. Maintain Daily Routines

Daylight savings can shift patterns of daily living activities by an hour, which can become overwhelming for seniors and caregivers who live by established routines. “Seniors may experience frustration, uncertainty and anxiety due to the disruption of their regular schedule,” Julie explains. “For caregivers, disjointed sleep patterns can also be a cause of stress.” To mitigate feelings of displacement, Julie advises maintaining a firm schedule for waking up, meals, and bedtime before and after the time shift occurs. While it may take seniors some time to adjust their natural rhythm, keeping to a schedule will provide a cushion of support.

2. Avoid Stimulants and Overexertion

Maintaining regular sleep patterns can also help seniors and caregivers ease into the time-shift transition. In order to guard against restlessness or insomnia the night before the clocks change, Julie advises cutting out caffeine, nicotine, and any other possible stimulants. She also recommends not watching television during the evening if it is typically viewed during the daytime, in order to prevent over-stimulation and avoid confusion in routine. Seniors and caregivers will likely still feel some tiredness as their internal clocks adjust to account for the extra hour; however, if sleeplessness becomes a habit, seniors or caregivers should reach out to their medical provider.

3. Encourage Daytime Activity 

Another way to encourage a restful night’s sleep this weekend is to help older adults stay active during the day. Julie advises taking an early morning or afternoon walk, and the Alzheimer’s Association recommends 50 more safe, enjoyable activities for seniors and family members. Staying active in the daytime can foster better sleep at night. However, Julie cautions against too much activity in the evening, as this could become another type of over-stimulation.

The end of daylight savings time comes with adjustment, both for clocks and for daily patterns of living. These tips can provide a starting place to ease the transition for older adults and their caregivers. For more information on caring for older loved ones with Alzheimer's or dementia, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website.

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