Wednesday Workshop ~ How to Cope with Sundowning

Wednesday Workshop ~ How to Cope with Sundowning

Good morning and welcome to today’s Wednesday Workshop.  Today I am going to share some tips on how to cope with Sundowning.The term sundowning refers to a state of confusion that occurs at the end of the day and into the night. If the person has his or her days and nights confused and sleeps all day.  Sundowning might occur at midnight or into the early morning hours.The behaviors that accompany sundowning may include confusion, pacing, crying, anxiety, aggression, or ignoring directions – basically, an emotional melt-down.

The exact cause of sundowning is unknown however applying the theory of retrogenesis suggest a way to respond to sundowning behavior.  When people begin experiencing sundowning, they are usually in the late stage of dementia and functioning at a toddler level. Consider the following scenario:

A mother takes her 3-year-old toddler to the doctor at 2pm which is usually nap time. Following the appointment, the child is fussy, difficult to console, crying off and on again and generally unpleasant the rest of the day.  The mother resolves that the next day she will be sure to put her child back on their normal schedule. How does this correlate to sundowning in an older person?

Generally, those with Alzheimer’s are at their best early in the morning and deteriorate as the day progresses. Sundowning generally occurs late in the day, perhaps when a caregiver is making dinner. The first episode of sundowning often catches the caregiver off guard, and great efforts are made to comfort the loved one with dementia.

When this pattern continues to occur, the following is often helpful:

About an hour before sundowning occurs, the caregiver should stop what he or she is doing, sit with the person with dementia, provide a snack, a drink or something to eat, and engage the person in a quiet but pleasant activities such as listening to music from that persons era or perhaps look at picture albums together watch an old, favorite movie.  By doing this, the caregiver is helping to restore the person with dementia so that he or she does not experience sundowning.  If the person with dementia sleeps all day and awakens around 5 or 6 pm, then the same strategies might be employed, but rater than intervening in the afternoon, the soothing interventions should occur around 11pm

If you would like more information, please visit our website at or call the Alzheimer’s Care Resource Center at (561) 588-4545. Thanks for watching today’s Wednesday Workshop and we will see you again next week.

Contact us

7 + 3 =