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A lot of info saying it can help with their sundowning symptoms. Wondering if anyone has had success and what brand / level of light did you use? ( 5,000 Lux? 10?) Medication hasn't helped, so looking for alternatives. Thx!

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Hi My Mom has had dementia for 4 years and the last 2 winters (Feb-Apr) she gets real snarky and confused in the afternoon. Once we start getting out doors for 15-20min a day for 4-5 days it gets better. It's best to do it when it's the warmest part of the day. For areas where there isn't a warmer climate the light therapy should work. It really makes a difference with being crabby.
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thanks, all! lots of great suggestions & food for thought!
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I feel obliged to add this: do an internet search: blue light retina.
Weigh the cost/benefit, maybe with the advice of healthcare professionals, including one familiar with eyes/retina.
Best wishes~
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I feel obliged to add this: do an internet search: blue light retina.
Weigh the cost/benefit, maybe with the advice of healthcare professionals, including one familiar with eyes/retina.
Best wishes~
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Light seems to help our mom during her sun-downing episodes. Music is the best therapy. Instrumental jazz gets her head bopping and feet tapping.
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I have one that I used for seasonal affective disorder. If you use it at night it will mess with your body clock and can give you insomnia.
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This has been years ago when my Gmom had Alzheimers. She was given oxygen treatments to help.
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Hi slra2015,

I have heard and seen improvements in those suffering dementia. The important things to remember is what type and how much improvement you are looking for. Many people have greater improvements from a combination of light and music therapy combined.

One of the greatest improvements I have seen is the downgrade of agitation and frustration of the person. While we currently do not have a cure for all dementia, we can make life more comfortable for them. Watching a loved one being frightened and unable to understand what is happening, arguably the most difficult a person can sustain.

While there are many types of cognitively stimulating tools at our disposal it is interesting that the information is not in one specific place. I encourage you to speak with not only the medical provider but any therapist you are referred too. All forms of therapy can and do benefit the patient and family whether physical, aroma, music, occupational or others at different times in the progression of the disease.

I have seen remarked results with light therapy, music therapy; touch therapy (Fidget Quilts) as well as animal therapy. All of these are acceptable methods of treating the person with dementia. And each can be used in the home at little or no cost to the family or person in need. This is a very acceptable treatment to take either when moving to a specialized home or to a day treatment center.

I would be remiss if not to warn that although all work alike by calming the person none of these will cure the disease process. The peace of mind the family and loved ones benefit from when the room or area is calm and reassuring is a blessing to all. And when teaching staff about dealing with unwanted behavior, it has always been prudent to remind them of ‘what you bring to the situation you will reap. This means if you go into the situation when coming on shift with tense and frustrating feelings from another situation, those with dementia know this and will act out in their own way of mirroring the same feelings or behaviors.
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Incandescent lights work just fine, Leave your lights ON, bright, until bedtime. Then when the house darkens, they will go to bed.
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Up here in north country, winter is about a month too long and SAD is just something we take for granted. Many take a week's vacation in Feb/March to someplace sunny and warm. My father sleeps well and likes to sit in his sunny, warm bedroom in the mornings, absorbing the rays. It does so much more for him than a box of light. So does going out for lunch/dinner or visits from my cheerful sister. It's after dinner that he gets restless. His caregiver leaves and he has never known what to do with himself between dinner and bedtime, as he has no real hobbies and is tired of TV. He doesn't want to go to bed too early because then he wakes up before midnight and gets confused. So he starts roaming around, going through paperwork and his mental to-do list. Then he calls me and wants me to explain details over the phone. But he doesn't give me enough information to help him and isn't satisfied with my responses. He also isn't at his sharpest. So I have to reassure him we will go through it in person when I am there. Sometimes that satisfies him and sometimes it doesn't. It's tiring because he always interrupts me and it's not as urgent as he thinks it is. But this is the time of day when he is lonely and wants to hear another voice say good-night and good-morning.
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If you do decide to try the light, see if your doctor will prescribe it. I use mine in the winter for SAD (going to work and coming home in the dark was just too much) and my doctor wrote a prescription.
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Full spectrum (light therapy) is used to treat SAD (seasonal affective disorder) which occurs when people are not exposed to enough sunlight (rainy Seattle comes to mind). Sunlight reaches the eye and makes melatonin which produces the neurotransmitter serotonin to improve mood. One can also take melatonin in pill form at bedtime to produce sleep. It is all about resetting the circadian rhythm. In dementia, connections in the brain malfunction. Try to cut out any caffeine about 4 hours before bedtime (i.e. chocolate, coffee, colas, even nuts - too much protein). Before you go to the expense of a full spectrum light, try exposing your loved one to some real sunlight during the day, and pill form of melatonin (about $3.00) at night.
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Sorry, also to add - it was the first elders that I helped, who taught me the value of an afternoon nap, when I did live-in care. I found that I loved that break in the day myself, my own capacity for listening and interest ncreased when I napped in a different room, during the hour when he would nap in early afternoon. I don't think elders need the care focus exclusively, they value a companion or two, who shares some of their vulnerabilities and takes good self care, as well as does regular activity or two with them - rest helps all be more interesting and real, when one is sharing time with them. If hiring caregivers, plan for overlap time when family updates and chats a bit with caregiver and elder - they like being part of a small community, and for them, that includes caregivers. Even small shared updates to review an afternoon, makes it feel like a shared effort to engage and bring positives.
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I also find the concept of "sondowning" unhelpful, as I also find our classification systems. We seem to expect life to go a regular pace for elders as if they were puppets. I find instead, that keeping someone company through the chores that are difficult for them, being quiet, focused, aware of glitches and encouraging gradual improvement - followed by breakfast and caregiver break, etc = and let the person nap as needed. Read something to them. If the day includes some shared joys, without over-stressing a caregiver - joys do not have to follow group organized activities, except a couple of times a week. I don't think we let nature be nature, we try to correct too much according to formulas, instead of enjoying the person and the day with them, even 30% of the time - and the rest of the time it's natural to rest, take breaks, and also do the needed tasks. Not easy to generalize, as people are so different, but reading to them makes a huge difference, is fun and shareable, and doesn't take much energy, and helps take virtual trips without the difficulties now present for them with any travel.
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My 91 year old Mother has Sun Downing BUT it is not when the sun goes down. It is when the sun goes up early in the morning. Sun Downing I think is just a term for a period of agitation and is just a term to identify a certain period of time in which your loved one is just plain un-happy during a period of time. With Mom it is the demand of getting up in the morning and all the steps it takes to do so. First step is to put her own feet on the ground to start the day. She is overwhelmed by doing anything even picking up the tooth paste tube and taking the cap off. So I don't think it would work with my Mother. Sorry
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I like the idea of music. My Mom was bedridden for many months before she passed on. I would play music Mom loved at certain times of day...morning and evening and this seemed to calm her. She liked classical, relaxing piano, and saxaphone. I am not sure how light effected her but I did keep a very low bulb burning in her room at night and that seemed to help with confusion and hallucinations. In the mornings I would try to make the room as bright as possible in our climate.
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I have a different opinion on sundowning. I believe dementia patients get so exhausted at the end of the day from dealing with their condition sundowning is the result. You may want try playing some music they loved during their youth. It is relaxing and really helped cheer up my mom. Even when she could no longer speak much, she remembered most of the words to "Mister Beau Jangles." Good luck!
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The Happy Light option is a good one to try - minimal investment (verilux happy light Liberty 10,000 lux can be purchased for 99.95 ) As I personally can attest to it's efficacy for sunlight deprivation during the winter months ( depending upon where you live, no matter how much time your loved one spends outside, the suns rays may not be sufficient to provide the UV rays for the body to produce the hormones necessary to promote positive mood) I have mine sitting at my desk and use it for my desk lamp in the morning. It sits about 2 ½ feet from my face and starts every morning off on the right foot for me. I would strongly recommend this small investment as an alternative treat modality. It certainly cannot hurt.
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It really surprises me to hear recommendations for using a blue light at night. But then I am using it for internal clock problems. I need to use mine to signal my body that it is daytime. It would be very counter-productive to use it at night. In fact, my specialist wants me to wear sunglasses in the evening, to try to convince my body that it really is nearing time to go to bed. But, as I say, that is about circadian rhythm problems, not specifically depression and certainly not sundowning.

Timing can be important in the use of light therapy, so if anyone is trying it without adequate results, I suggest experimenting with the timing.

The glasses I wear for an hour a day are the result of many years of research by Flinders University (Australia). If you are interested, look up Re-Timer. Even if you are not considering a wearable application there is interesting information on their site about the science behind light therapy. The glasses use blue-green light (which is just as effective and may be less risky) and blocks UV. My eye doctor was worried when she saw mine, but looked it up and approved of the specs. The lumens or brightness measure seems very low compared to the boxes, but that is because it is right up by the eyes, not 18 or 20 inches away. When you are looking at boxes check how close you must be to the device. What really matters is the brightness by the time it reaches your eyes, not the brightness when it leaves the box -- so just comparing lux may not be meaningful.

There are many "happy light" options out there. I hated spending so much on mine, but it was one my doctor was familiar with and knew to be effective. I didn't want to spend less money and risk throwing it out. I know what you mean, slra2015, about being reluctant to spend a lot when the therapy just "might" work for sundowning. That is kind of the spot I was in, too. "Maybe" this will help a circadian problem (although there is more research about that than sundowning) but at least it is known to be effective for depression, so I figured I'd get some value out of it.

In the meantime, while you are considering a possible purchase, are you taking your loved one out in the sunshine for a half-an-hour a day or more? My sleep doctor told me I wouldn't need a light box or glasses if I just went outside every morning when I woke up. I just looked at him. He is definitely from a sunnier climate. Going out for sunshine would be great except when it is raining or snowing or sleeting or overcast or there is a tornado warning in effect! So I opted to spend the money. I don't know where you are from, slra2015, but if it is feasible, taking your loved one outdoors regularly might have some positive effects, too.

And is she getting enough vitamin D? People who have to spend a lot of their lives indoors, especially in Northern climates, are very often deficient. If you don't know, ask to have that tested the next time blood is drawn. The supplements are tiny gel caps and very easy to take. My sleep doctor, my diabetes doctor, and my depression doctor all encourage vitamin D. Being deficient causes a lot of problems. Whether it specifically would help sundowning I don't know, but it might be worthwhile just on general principles!

This is a possible therapy that doesn't get much exposure for dementia. I sure hope you'll come back and tell us what you try and how it works out. We learn from each other!
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It wouldn't surprise me if there's a link with the depression that can be brought on during winter months - there's obviously less sun during the shorter days. And that could affect sundowning as well, but that's just my own personal opinion.

Your post is interesting as I've found myself spending a few moments every time I get online at one of my favorite sites. It's a chateau in France, with a magnificent formal garden. But the photography and the lighting are keys to the soothing beauty of the photos.

I don't know what kind of filters were used, or how the sun was highlighted, or if the photos were taken during a specific time of day, but the warmth of the sun can literally be felt by looking at the photos. It's very, very soothing and calming.

For someone who's sundowning, I think I'd try just good old regular lighting (not fluorescent as it can be hard on the eyes), and perhaps photos of bright cheery places rather than the spectrum of artificial lighting.

Maybe your day could transition into evening with photos of beautiful, well lit sunny places.
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Hey, jeannegibbs, it's kind of all over the place with recommended time of use & level of light. For dementia patients, they say try an hour in the morning and 1 hr at night. Some people do better with 2 hours at night. Guess its really dependent on the person. Then they tell you make sure it blocks UV, has blue light, but be careful of the eyes. Ack. I don't know. Don't want to spend too much because I really don't know if it'll work for her. I'll write back here if we do pick / use one of them!
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I hadn't heard of light therapy for sundowning. What is the recommended time of day to use it?

I use light therapy myself, mainly to try to regulate my weird body clock, but also to ward off depression. I wear blue light glasses each day. (They are about $300, I think,) For the light boxes you need to sit a certain distance from them for a certain period. I couldn't see myself being patient with that! The glasses are awesome, though.

I'd be very interested in hearing how this works out, if you try it.
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