It has been observed that arthritic joints give warnings of an approaching storm. Predicting rain has long been associated with aching joints; ask many older people! Scientific studies show that pressure changes can affect not only arthritic pain, but trigger migraines and influence many other illnesses, including asthma. The effect of barometric change manifests as restlessness or outright pain – it often causes some agitation or even aggression if the discomfort is not treated. Besides barometric change, light could be a factor in discomfort. People can feel down after a long period with no sunshine and some people suffer from a type of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD); therapy lights are often prescribed to treat SAD. Adjusting the type of environmental lighting has helped people managing sundowning, (sundowners syndrome), in people with Alzheimer’s. Also affecting many people is the full moon. People working in nursing homes and hospitals will almost always say that a full moon makes a difference in their residents’ behavior. A paper written by Alan Beck of Purdue University in 2002 titled, “The Lunar Influence on Behaviors in Individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease,” states that the rate of occurrence of behaviors in study participants ranged from two to five times greater during the full moon period versus the other periods in episodes of wandering, anxiety, physical aggression and verbal confrontation. Environmental changes such as an approaching storm can put people ill at ease; animals also act differently. When dementia already is causing confusion, it shouldn’t be surprising to caregivers if patients are extra sensitive to environmental changes. For additional information on caregiving, author Carol Bradley Bursack has a supporting website at www.mindingourelders.com.
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