Sundowning is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Confusion and agitation worsen in the late afternoon and evening, or as the sun goes down. Symptoms are less pronounced earlier in the day.
Sundowning most often affects people who have mid-stage and advanced dementia. The phenomenon of sundowning is also sometimes called “late-day confusion.” Reducing sundowning behavior can benefit both the person with dementia and the caregiver.
Here are a few suggestions to help manage sleeping problems and sundowning:
Stick to a Schedule
Dementia can make new routines difficult to put into place. Confusion and anger are common responses to the stress of encountering an unfamiliar place or food, for example. Stick to the same schedule every day to minimize sundowning symptoms. Try to avoid making changes if a “tried and true” method of doing things works for your family. If altering your routine is necessary, try to change as little as possible at once. Stress and fear play large roles in sundowning.
Light Up the Night
Sundowning is thought to be related to changes in the body’s circadian rhythms, or the sleep-wake cycle. Keeping your home brightly lit in the afternoon and evening may help reduce the symptoms of sundowning syndrome. People who are exposed to more light late in the day show less agitation. Light exposure helps your body recognize the difference between day and night.
Many people who suffer from sundowning syndrome have trouble sleeping. Elderly people who have dementia may not be very active during the day and may rest a lot. Daytime napping, confusion, and agitation can make it hard to settle down to sleep at night. Fatigue is a common trigger for sundowning. Being well rested can help combat symptoms. Stay active during the day with activities geared to your level of physical and mental health to improve sleep quality and reduce sundowning symptoms.
Provide Comfort and Familiarity
Think back to the last time you were sick and wanted to surround yourself with comforting thoughts and objects. For someone with dementia, the world is suddenly a scary place. Comfort and familiarity are keys to helping your loved one through this difficult time. Senior citizens who live with sundowning syndrome in a hospital or assisted living facility need comforting through the familiar objects of their everyday life. Bring cherished items such as blankets or family photos to the new facility to help ease the transition and curb symptoms.
Write It Down
Each person has different triggers for sundowning. As caretaker for someone in the earlier stages of dementia, you may not have figured out which triggers worsen your loved one’s behavior. Keep a journal of activities, environment, and behavior to identify triggers. Once the triggers are known, it’s easier to avoid situations that promote agitation and confusion.
To contact us here at the Alzheimer’s Care Resource Center
Please call us at (561) 588-4545 or visit us online at www.AlzheimersCareResourceCenter.org. Thanks for watching today’s Wednesday Workshop and we’ll see you again next week!