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CBD For Sundowners Dementia or Alzheimers (A Caregivers Perspective)

Today we are going to be talking about how to use CBD for your loved one who has dementia and is experiencing Sundowning or Sundown Syndrome.

CBD For Sundowning

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Medical Disclaimer

Always talk to your loved one's doctor about using CBD oil.  There could be medication contraindications or other considerations that a medical professional would know, that you may not.  

Also, CBD isn’t legal everywhere, so trying to obtain it could be rather problematic if you are in a place where it is still illegal. Make sure to check your state for “Medical Marijuana” laws.

Last but not least, I am NOT a medical professional and this is for sure just information to think about when you are trying to help your loved one with dementia. We have NOT used CBD Oil for my Mother In Law's Sundowners yet, I was just doing the research and reaching out to friends who do use CBD for medical conditions and thought I would share what I found with you!

What Is Sundowners

So first off, let's talk about what Sundowners or Sundown Syndrome is… functionally for my Mom it is getting sad or super grumpy late in the day, about the time the sun goes down.

I can really tell when it is summer or winter… more sundowning when it gets dark earlier and less when it stays light longer. She has a HUGE window in her room with no curtains so it is hard for us to regulate the sun with indoor lighting (although it is a great dementia activity to watch the birds all day long!)

For your loved one it could be getting scared at dusk with shadows, wanting to “go home” late in the day or even wandering out of the house… each person's dementia is different and will change over time.

I have a whole post about Sundowners if you are just starting at the very beginning… 9 Tips and Ideas For Sundowning Dementia At Home

CBD For Sundown Syndrome

CBD oil for sundowners in dementia

Now let's talk Cannabidiol, or CBD oil for Sundowning…

Studies are being done on how it can help Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, generally, but especially for sundowning.  

According to the UK site, “Some studies suggest cannabis could help to manage a few behavioural symptoms of dementia, such as agitation and aggression.” source

Other studies have been completed have shown that CBD oil has a positive effect on the central nervous system.  Without going into the sciency stuff, it helps certain areas and neurons that are hit the hardest by dementia, and also helps slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Here is a super in depth study of how CBD might be able to help Alzheimers by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health in case you want to learn more!

How you give it to your loved one will affect the time it takes to work and how long it lasts.  Each has its pros and cons.  Here is a quick breakdown:

CBD Oil Via Eating, Pills or Drink

CBD Brownies for Sundowning

If the your loved one takes the CBD, by eating (my friend makes brownies of it), in a pill or in a drink, the CBD can take between 30 minutes and an hour to take effect but the effects last 2 to 4 hours.  There is more control over dosage amounts and there is no harm to the body, but it takes a bit to start working.

My bestie Deb who has a myriad of medical conditions takes CBD to help her sleep and for pain control. You may find that your loved one is less agitated, but more sleepy after taking the CBD.

This is one of the reasons that I am a little hesitant to try it for my Mom, along with the fact that THC is pschoactive and she is an alcoholic who gave herself wet brain dementia… sigh.

Since she gets sundowners earlier in the day during the winter months, say around 6-ish… if it takes one hour to work, 7-ish, then works for two hours, 9-ish, she could be up and skippy again by the time I am ready to go to bed!

Smoking CBD

If your loved one smokes it (via an e-cigarette or by vaping) the effect is instant, but only lasts for about 45 minutes to an hour.  One drawback can be that many places (like assisted living or nursing homes) don’t allow smoking include vaping and e-cigarettes.  Another is the damage to the lungs!

That said, I do know that “getting to smoke again” might be fun for our Mom. She was a long term smoker who quit years ago, but who had fun try on my husband Johnny's vape in the car.

I vape nicotine all day long (better than smoking cigarettes, please don't nag me) so doing vaping would be easy for us to add in. If you aren't a smoker and your loved one isn't either, I wouldn't start this one as it could confuse the heck out of your loved one and if you had to place them in a home you would have to change this later anyways!

Topical Applications

If it’s applied topically to your loved one through a lotion, balm or salve, the time to take effect can vary widely but it lasts much longer, 5 hours or more.  It’s a good solution if the person needing it has skin problems or joint pain as well as dementia, but it will take more than one application to reach peak effectiveness.

Another topical solution is a transdermal patch.  This can be the best solution for people with chronic pain or lack of access to other means of getting CBD.  It also has a wide variance in time to take effect, but it lasts the longest, 1-2 days, because of the steady release into the body.

I don't know anything about this one, but it might be worth a try if Mom has a lot of problems come winter. For me this seems like the least confusing (although having a brownie a day would certainly make her happy!)

CBD For Sundowners FAQs

Okay, I had a BUNCH of questions about this as I was going through this post's research… here are some things I have found out!

What Is The Difference Between CBD Oil and Cannabis Oil (THC)?

According to the Healthline site, “CBD is shown to help with anxiety, depression, and seizures” and THC helps with more with physical symptoms like insomnia, nausea and pain.

So for my Mom it sounds like the CBD, which has no “high” feeling, might be the way to go!

Years and years ago I tried smoking pot (yes I inhaled!) and it was not a great experience for me. It made me more paranoid and anxious. That said, it made my friend Marco more productive and focused.

I think some of us “sandwich generation” peeps are bringing our “pot” experiences into what is now a more medical and clinical medicinal product!

What Are The Side Effects of CBD?

The Mayo Clinic is my source for all things “medicine related” so I trotted over there to see the side effects of CBD… “CBD can cause side effects, such as dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness and fatigue.”

Um, that one, diarrhea, may not be so great for my Mom. She is pretty incontinent at times and I am not sure I can stand having even more poop problems! Also, she is eating fine right now, but we did have a trouble getting her to eat in the past!

Additional Resource :: My favorite products for dealing with cleaning up poop!

According to the FDA, the Farm Bill of 2018 made CBD legal on a national level in the United States (sorry I only know the rules now for the US!)

So it looks like this is a big YEP! (THC, which has the psychoactive ingredients, is still only legal in states with Medical Marijuana or Marijuana laws).

CBD For Sundowners With Dementia Wrapup

Okay, here is my take after all this research and checking out my favorite dementia caregivers group

It seems like CBD could seriously help with anxiety and sleep, which would help people with Alzheimers or dementia who get Sundown Syndrome.

It is NOT going to help with cognitive functions or memory loss at all.

They are working on clinical trials and dementia research to find out more, but for now the only actual medical prescription use for CBD is for a childhood form of Epilepsy. source FDA

The peeps in the group have used CBD oil in food like brownies, gummies and pills. No one said they had their loved one smoked it.

Last but not least… being in the early stages of figuring this out I have SO MANY QUESTIONS still!

As a caregiver, is it fair for me to put her on something that she will literally have no understanding of even if I think it will be good for her or help her?

It seems like doses of CBD can vary and you can start doing smaller doses and work your way up!

I don't care at all about “killing her brain cells”… although it seems like that is just an old wives tale anyways from the “pothead” days. Stupid dementia is killing her brain cells faster than anything CBD could ever do… sigh.

I will for sure be trying CBD next time we have a super serious bout of sundowners (she goes in waves, but we have had a relatively long break so I know it is coming soon!)