Sundowning: What it is and How to Cope

046In those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, sundowning or sundowner’s syndrome is common. Extended Family Home Care is recognized by the American Alzheimer’s Association as leaders in Alzheimer’s and dementia care, and as such, we are trained to respond effectively to this difficult symptom.

What is Sundowning?

Sundowning, or sundowner’s syndrome, is an increase in restlessness and confusion sometimes present in those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, so named because it usually occurs at the end of the day, or during sunset. Though the exact cause is unknown, it is widely believed that disturbances in the patient’s circadian rhythm may play a role in sundowning behaviors. Symptoms of sundowning include increased agitation, confusion, fatigue, sensitivity to noise, tremors and restlessness. It is not uncommon for someone experiencing sundowner’s syndrome to become frustrated and aggressive with their caregiver, which is why it is so important to have a caring, skilled professional in that role.

How Do I Manage the Symptoms?

Although the symptoms of sundowner’s syndrome can’t be completely eradicated, there are some steps you or your loved one’s caregiver can take to lessen their impact.These steps include:

  • Establishing a familiar and comfortable daily routine
  • If the health of your loved one permits, an increase in daily physical activity may be beneficial
  • Limiting evening intake of coffee, soda and other beverages containing caffeine
  • Allowing your loved one to determine where they will sleep each night, with low light to limit confusion
  • When your loved one is aggravated, offer calm reassurance that they are in a safe place
  • Try to ascertain whether there is something your loved one is in need of
  • Arguing is NOT recommended

Sundowning can be frightening and confusing for both the person suffering and their loved ones so learn more practical tips for dealing with dementia and make sure you establish a routine.