Understanding Daylight Saving and Dementia

Apr 2, 2024

Daylight Saving Time (DST) changes can pose unique challenges for individuals with dementia due to their reliance on routine, disruption of circadian rhythms, and potential for increased confusion and agitation.

Read on to get a deeper understanding of how DST affects individuals with dementia.

Dementia and Time Confusion

Sometimes, a person with dementia will behave in ways that are difficult to understand in the late afternoon or early evening. Let’s break down this occurrence further.

What Is Sundowning?

Sundowning refers to a pattern of agitation, confusion, and behavioral changes that often occur in the late afternoon or early evening hours, hence the term “sundowning.”

Factors That Contribute to Sundowning

The exact cause of sundowning isn’t fully understood, but several factors may contribute to it, including:

Circadian Rhythm Disruption

Dementia can disrupt the internal body clock, leading to confusion about the time of day.


Individuals with dementia may experience increased fatigue as the day progresses, which can exacerbate cognitive and behavioral symptoms.

Environmental Changes

Decreased light levels and changes in routine as the day transitions to evening can trigger anxiety and confusion.

Hunger or Thirst

Individuals may become agitated or restless if they are hungry or thirsty but have difficulty communicating their needs.

Physical Discomfort

Pain or discomfort, such as from urinary urgency or discomfort from prolonged sitting, may worsen in the evening.

Daylight Saving

DST changes can indeed exacerbate sundowning symptoms in individuals with dementia. The shift in time can disrupt their already fragile sense of day and night, further confusing their internal body clocks.

How to Manage Daylight Saving and Dementia

Managing DST changes in individuals with dementia requires careful planning and consideration to minimize disruptions to their routines and well-being.

Here are some strategies for caregivers to help manage DST transitions effectively:

Prepare in Advance

Anticipate the upcoming time change and begin making adjustments a few days beforehand. Gradually shift meal times, bedtime, and other activities by 15-30 minutes each day leading up to the DST change.

Gradual Adjustment

Start adjusting the individual’s schedule a few days before the DST changes by shifting meal times, bedtime, and waking time gradually. This can help ease the transition and minimize the shock of sudden changes.

Maintain Consistency

Despite the time change, strive to maintain consistency in daily routines as much as possible. Stick to regular meal times, medication schedules, and activities to provide a sense of stability and predictability.

Learn about the importance of routine for dementia patients and tips on how to establish one.

Optimize Lighting

Exposure to natural light helps regulate circadian rhythms. Encourage outdoor activities or exposure to sunlight during the morning hours to support healthy sleep-wake cycles. In the evening, use artificial lighting to compensate for reduced daylight and create a soothing environment.

Promote Relaxation

Implement calming activities in the evening to help individuals unwind and reduce anxiety. This could include gentle exercises, soothing music, or relaxation techniques.

Monitor Sleep Patterns

Pay close attention to the individual’s sleep patterns before and after the DST change. If disruptions occur, consider adjustments such as promoting relaxation techniques before bedtime or consulting a healthcare professional for guidance on managing sleep disturbances.

Use Visual Aids

Visual aids, such as clocks with large, easy-to-read numbers or calendars, can help individuals with dementia understand and anticipate changes associated with DST. Visual schedules can also help reinforce daily routines and reduce confusion.

Stay Calm and Patient

Remain calm and patient, even if the individual becomes agitated or confused during the transition period. Respond with empathy and understanding, and try to redirect their attention to comforting activities or routines.

Limit Stimulants Before Bed

Minimize the consumption of caffeine, nicotine, and heavy meals close to bedtime, as they can interfere with sleep quality. Encourage relaxation activities, such as reading or listening to calming music, in the evening to promote relaxation before sleep.

Engage in Calming Activities

Help the individual unwind in the evening by engaging in calming activities, such as solving simple puzzles, sorting activities, or word searches before bed.

Provide Reassurance and Support

Recognize that DST changes may cause confusion or anxiety in individuals with dementia. Offer reassurance and support, and be patient and understanding if they experience difficulties adjusting to the new schedule.

Stay Organized

Use visual cues, such as calendars or clocks with large, easy-to-read numbers, to help the individual understand and anticipate changes associated with DST. Visual schedules can also help reinforce daily routines and reduce confusion.

Seek Professional Guidance

If the individual experiences significant distress or behavioral changes following DST transitions, consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation and guidance. They may recommend additional strategies or interventions to support the individual’s well-being.

By implementing these strategies, caregivers can help individuals with dementia navigate DST changes more smoothly and minimize the impact on their daily lives and overall health.

Key Takeaways

Managing DST changes can be challenging for individuals with dementia and their loved ones, and seeking professional help is perfectly reasonable and can be very beneficial. Seeking professional help is not only reasonable but also highly beneficial in ensuring the well-being of both the individual with dementia and their caregivers.

Fairmont Senior Living takes proactive steps to support seniors during the spring months and DST transitions. Engaging seniors in gardening, spring events, and cooking activities using homegrown vegetables are just a few of the activities we do that promote physical activity, socialization, and a sense of purpose. By incorporating these activities and initiatives for our assisted living and memory care residents, Fairmont Senior Living creates a vibrant and supportive environment for seniors during the spring months, fostering a sense of connection, purpose, and well-being. Contact us today to schedule a tour of our facility and learn more about the benefits of your loved one calling Fairmont Senior Living home.