As we prepare to turn our clocks back an hour this weekend, daylight will be increasingly in short supply and we may feel as though we are settling in for a long winter’s nap. Caregivers of seniors who suffer from dementia often find that keeping a regular sleep schedule can be a challenge, especially when dark falls before dinner time.
A weighted blanket, which can have the calming effect of a hug, has been found to decrease anxiety and help with nighttime wandering common among those with dementia. Deep touch pressure has been observed to have a calming effect on the nervous system in those with conditions such as dementia, autism, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and depression. Temple Grandin piloted research on the beneficial effects of deep touch pressure drawn from her own experiences as a person with autism. At the age of 18, she designed a “squeeze machine” to provide herself with all-over pressure to relieve anxiety. To read more about her work visit: http://grandin.com/inc/squeeze.html.
While you can purchase weighted blankets online, if you or a loved-one sews, the following link provides detailed instructions of how to make your own: http://craftnectar.com/2009/09/03/calming-the-senses-with-weighted-blankets/ . It is generally recommended that the blanket not exceed one tenth of user’s the body weight.
Daytime exposure to sunlight and regular activity can also help prevent evening agitation. Try to maintain a predictable schedule and avoid stimulation, such as television, close to bedtime. Keep the bedroom dark (use a dim nightlight for safety) at night and maintain a soothing, calming environment.