What is sundowning?

Sundowning is one symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. It is also known as late-day confusion. If your loved one has dementia, his or her agitation and confusion may get worse in the late afternoon or evening.

1. Stick to a routine

Dementia could make it hard to develop and remember a new schedule. Your loved one may react to unfamiliar places with feelings of confusion, stress and anger. Those feelings could play a large role in sundowning.

Stick to the same routine every day to help your loved one feel more calm. Try to stay away from making changes to routines that work for you both. If you need to make some changes, try to gradually adjust their routine and do so as little as possible.

2. Light up your loved one’s life

Seniors may struggle with sundowning as the result of changes in their sleep-wake cycles. Adjusting the light in his or her home may help reduce their symptoms.

Some studies suggest that light therapy can reduce confusion and agitation in people with dementia. You should consider placing a full-spectrum fluorescent light about three feet away from your loved one for a couple hours every morning. You can also try brightening the lights when confusion or agitation occurs.

3. Keep him or her active

Most people who experience sundowning syndrome have a difficult time sleeping at night. As a result, fatigue and tiredness is a common trigger of sundowning. This can unfortunately create a vicious cycle.

Too much daytime dozing and minimal physical activity can make it harder for your loved one to fall asleep at bedtime. To promote a good night’s sleep for your loved one, assist them in staying active during the day. For instance, go for a stroll in the park together or clear some space to dance. This may help reduce their sundowning symptoms and improve their sleep quality. For more tips on staying active, check out these ways to promote healthy aging through physical activity here!

4. Change eating patterns

Adjusting your loved one’s eating patterns might also help reduce their symptoms of sundowning. Big meals could increase their agitation and might keep them up at night, especially if he or she consumes alcohol or caffeine. Encourage him or her to avoid these substances or drink them at lunch rather than dinner. Limiting their evening meals to a hearty snack or light meal might help them feel more comfortable.

5. Minimize stress

Try your best to help your loved one stay calm during the evening. Encourage them to stick to simple activities that are not too frightening or challenging. Stress and frustration can add to their confusion and irritability.

If your loved one has mid-stage or advanced dementia, reading a book or watching television might be too difficult for them. Consider playing soft music to create a calm and quiet environment instead. It may be a nice time for them to snuggle with a beloved pet.

6. Bring conformity

Think back to the last time you were ill. You most likely wanted to be surrounded by comforting thoughts and people. For a person with dementia, the world can become a stressful place. Familiarity and comfort could help them cope with this difficult time in life.

7. Track your loved one’s behavior

Aging adults have different triggers for sundowning. Find out your loved one’s triggers and use a journal or smartphone app to track their daily environments, activities and behaviors. Look for the pattern of activities or environments that seem to make their symptoms worse.

When you know their triggers, it will be easier to stay away from situations that promote confusion or agitation.

Is your loved one experiencing sundowning symptoms? Click here to find out how our experienced aides at Colonial Home Care Services can help your loved ones today!