Sundowning is a symptom of dementia. In the late afternoon or evening, as the sun goes down, you may find your loved one confused and agitated. These symptoms are usually less pronounced earlier in the day.
Sundowning usually increases as a person moves into mid-stage or advanced dementia. You may have heard sundowning referred to as “late-day confusion.” In any case, reducing sundowning behavior can help improve the behavior of your loved one, bringing more peace of mind into your life as the caregiver.
Stick To A Schedule
In most cases, confusion and anger come from being in a stressful situation. And stress is most commonly associated with being out of the comfort zone. While we may be able to handle changes and variances in our daily routine, people with mid-level or advanced stages of Alzheimer’s do not. They enjoy routine. They look forward to knowing they will experience the same things again and again. They come to expect dinner at a specific time, with their favorite foods in place. Chance it and you’ll likely hear about it.
Increase The Light
Sundowning is thought to be related to the body’s natural circadian rhythms. This natural sleep-wake cycle is something we live with throughout our lives, but seems to become a trigger point in Alzheimer’s patients. As afternoon flows into evening, your home begins to darken. If you increase the light in your home during this process, it can reduce agitation that comes along with it.
Just like all of us, the more activity a person has during the day, the more restful they become late into the evening. People with sundowning are no different. Elderly people who have dementia might not be very active. Daytime napping only increases the chance for confusion and agitation as they have trouble settling in for the night. By increasing daily activity, whether it’s physical or mental health, can show a difference overall.
We’ve all heard of the many ways of cutting down stress in our own lives. Put on soft music. Keep the environment calm. Keep activities simple, especially as the day wears on. Make sure you understand the capabilities of the person you are caring for, and give them challenges that are easily doable, not something that will only add more frustration to their lives.
Avoid Large Meals
We’ve all been given the advice of avoiding heavy eating patterns late at night. For people experiencing sundowning, it’s true. Large meals, especially if they contain alcohol or caffeine, can increase agitation as you move into the evening hours. If you enjoy large meals, make them lunch time occurrences and keep your dinners light.
Create a Journal
Because your loved one is changing every day, it’s hard to remember everything that is happening throughout this transition. The little things are easy to miss. Instead, create a journal for everyday activities. This is an easy way to begin noticing patterns, and to determine what activities, environment, and behavior triggers reaction. It can help you adjust quickly over time.
Provide Comfortable Surroundings
This isn’t a time to introduce new things. Instead, surround your loved one with things they love the most. A family quilt. A scrapbook or photo album. Favorite music. All of it can help keep agitation and anger at a minimum. This is also a time where most people begin considering their options for a place to live. In home care can keep the familiarity in place, giving your loved one the peace of mind of being in a place that is comfortable and secure. It can bring you peace of mind knowing your loved one is in the best place they can be, being cared for on a one on one basis.