5 Things Caregivers Can Do to Prevent Sundowning in Individuals with Dementia
November 12, 2020
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, as many as 20 percent of people living with the disease will experience symptoms of sundowning, defined as a state of confusion and agitation that begins at the end of the day and lasts into the night. Symptoms of sundowning include disorientation, anxiety, agitation, insomnia, and behaviors such as yelling, pacing, wandering, or ignoring directions.
Sundowning is thought to be caused by changes in natural light, which play a major role in humans’ sleep/wake cycles, so it follows that the end of Daylight Savings Time often exacerbates these symptoms. To help, we have put together a list of five tips for caregivers seeking to prevent or alleviate sundowning symptoms during this more difficult time of year.
Keep the Home Well-lit and Calm
Dusk and twilight can bring about distorting shadows and disorienting color changes, so it is best to remove those influences if possible. This means closing the blinds and turning on warm, artificial lights in the afternoon or early evening, or playing the individual’s favorite music to keep them calm. You can also go outside or have them sit by a window where the bright light can reset their body clock.
Excessive noise or clutter in the home will create an environment of increased confusion or frustration and can exacerbate symptomatic behaviors such as pacing and wandering. In addition, drinking coffee or alcoholic drinks can keep the individual awake artificially which can be disorienting as well.
Try Distraction at Night
In the evenings, caregivers can try introducing the person’s favorite snack or activity, working with them on a simple task like folding clothes, turning on a familiar TV show, or having a family member call to distract from stressful feelings.
Stay Active During the Day
Caregivers can try to plan fun, engaging activities during the day so that the individual is more relaxed at night. They should also make sure the person gets enough rest at night and does not nap for too long during the day, which could further disrupt their body clock..
Stick to a Routine
Changes in daylight, mealtimes and sleep schedules can bring added emotional and cognitive difficulties for people living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, so to minimize confusion, caregivers should help the person stick to their regular routine as closely as possible and follow the same schedule each day.
Is your loved one having issues with sundowning? The Lodge at Grand Junction’s memory care neighborhood features an experienced memory care team as well as specialized activities for individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia. To learn more, give us a call at (970) 426-0358 or visit our website.