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AARP Expert

Managing Sundowners Syndrome Tip #9: Give Healing Touch

When Dad, who had Alzheimer’s, began to experience Sundowners symptoms like anxiety and a sense of urgency to get something done or go somewhere (or really any time he felt anxious) I found that most of the time I could comfort him with a hug or hold his hand. He then relaxed and calmed down, expressing gratitude that I cared. My experience leads me to my 9th tip for you:


Give Healing Touch


Never underestimate the value of a hand or foot massage to relax tense muscles and increase feel-good hormones. For example, when Dad was at the height of sundowning, at the suggestion of his acupuncturist, we prepared a warm footbath with herbs and essential oils. We soaked and massaged his feet every afternoon around 4pm – a bit before his Sundowner’s symptoms began to emerge. Then we massaged lotion into his feet and hands. This process calmed and comforted him, easing him through the transition incredibly well and preventing a lot of distress and anxiety.


As a little girl, I can remember sitting on the back of the couch rubbing and scratching Dad’s head. (Sometimes he even gave my sisters and me a dime to do be masseuses!) Indeed, Dad loved that all his life, so as Alzheimer’s progressed it was easy to fall back on. A gentle head massage immediately calmed him whenever he was anxious. I even got him a lightweight scalp massager. He also got a professional massage once a week, which helped on an ongoing basis; often the happiest part of his week was when he was getting his massage.


A loving hug or holding hands can be physically calming and emotionally reassuring for your loved ones, breaking the cycle of anxiety. I think holding Dad’s hand helped him feel less alone…and it helped me too.


Massage therapy may also be good for brain health


I know that when your loved ones are feeling anxious, their behaviors can be difficult to take. You may also get anxious and frustrated too. Comforting them may be the last thing on your mind. Try taking some deep breaths and centering yourself. Allow your energy to become calmer. Then use your compassionate, calm touch to help. Be gentle. You may be surprised at how they respond. They are likely quite sensitive to your energy and may naturally begin to match it, joining you in your more mellow state.


Experiment with different types of compassionate, loving, healing touch to see what your loved ones respond to. Reply to this post and tell us what works for you and your loved ones in the comments below!


Take care,

Amy Goyer, AARP Family & Caregiving Expert

Author, Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving

Honored Social Butterfly


It's Always Something . . . . Roseanna Roseannadanna
AARP Expert

@GailL1 🤣

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