Sundowning is a phenomenon that is faced by many caregivers of those with dementia.
It’s yet another challenge faced by our senior loved ones and family caregivers.
They may not realize there is a name for what happens in their home every afternoon and evening, but it causes them difficulty nonetheless.
The symptoms of sundowning include confusion, agitation, anxiety, ignoring directions, yelling, restlessness, combativeness, and irritability that could result in pacing and wandering.
There are often triggers that bring about these symptoms toward the end of the day such as:
- Darkening light
- Hunger or thirst
It is estimated that 1 out of 5 people with dementia will get sundown syndrome (sundowning), though some experts put the number up higher, to as much as 66%. (Sometimes older adults without dementia can be affected by sundowners.) It might be because the senior’s internal clock is broken when signals aren’t sent from the brain telling them it is time for awake or asleep.
Sundowning can be harmful for the person with dementia and exhausting for the caregiver.
Tips to Reduce Sundowning Symptoms
Caregivers need support to counteract the effects of sundowning.
These tips will help you reduce and possibly prevent some of the symptoms:
- Observe to determine if the symptoms are from an unmet need that you can address, such as hunger, thirst, pain, need to toilet, or boredom.
- Provide a late day nap that isn’t too long to prevent tiredness and fatigue.
- Avoid excessive television viewing and other noise or overstimulation during the day. Realistic TV, especially from the news, can trigger memories of events that are painful, sad or evoke anger.
- Keep the lights shining in the house as the sun sets.
- Give your senior a task to re-direct them and keep them busy. It could be a craft, a puzzle, or doing a chore such as setting the table for dinner.
- Avoid caffeine and sugar after midday.
- Play soothing music.
- Keep a routine.
Caregivers, here are a few more articles that you might find helpful to avoid burnout dealing with sundowning and dementia.