For most of us, the impact of Daylight Saving Time on the body is a temporary existence. The fatigue and disorientation that the body experiences readjusts within a week or so, for the most part. But for people with cognitive impairments, who are so sensitive to changes in time and environment, the effects of Daylight Savings Time can have a more long term impact on the mind and body.
The human brain is complex. Neurotransmitters constantly firing; cortical centers control and channel the creative, technical, analytic, and emotional centers of every day life. Sleep and wake habits all influence a functional human mind. When someone suffers from a cognitive disorder – such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or other deterioration in the cerebral cortex – change in time and daylight can negatively influence the functionality of vulnerable mind. The body’s exhaustive response to these changes results in behavioral changes. So when someone has a cognitive disorder, it only makes sense that darkness in conjunction with exhaustion causes behavioral issues and increases confusion. Sometimes this increase in confusion does not self correct, because the brain is in such a vulnerable state and neurotransmitters are not always firing regularly.
For your friends and family who enter this time of year with a cognitive issue of some degree, make sure that they are adequately stimulated with activities that address memory function and thinking skills. Even if it is merely showing them pictures or listening to music – as long as the brain is being stimulated, it is a helpful means of pushing them through a challenging time with a tendency towards confusion and disorientation. Make sure that someone helps them rise in the morning – ensuring that they awake, engage in morning care and begin their day is helpful. Conversely, make sure that they are encouraged to go to sleep early so that they can achieve a full night’s rest. During the day, take them outside in the sunlight for as long as possible. Remind them to eat. Their body always needs nourishment, but especially at this time of year because it is working extra hard to try and re-align itself. Make certain that they are getting enough of a mixture of protein and vegetables so that their body can utilize the vitamins and minerals to orient itself. Be aware if they have a hearing loss and make sure that their device(s) are working properly. Auditory stimulation is very important during this time, as visual stimulation may be misleading.
We don’t have to witness a further decline in cognitive function in our loved ones merely because of Daylight Saving Time. We can work hard to keep our loved ones in an attentive and stimulated state so that they can transition through this difficult period of time – just like the rest of us.