Tuesday Tips for Caregiver ~ Sundowning Syndrome: What Is It and How to Manage It

Sundowning Syndrome: What Is It and How to Manage It

“Sundowning” is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease characterized by confusion that affects Alzheimer’s patients later in the day. As a result, this symptom is also called “late-day confusion.”[1] If you have an aging loved one with dementia, you may notice that negative behaviors are harder to manage later in the day and that behaviors are probably easier earlier in the morning.

Although, medical professionals are not sure why sundowning occurs, some have speculated that the degrading effects of dementia impact the parts of your brain that control your “internal clock.”[2] This is the part of your brain that tells your body whether you should sleep or stay awake. If your loved one is experiencing sundowning symptoms, then their condition may be exacerbated by feeling too tired, depressed, thirst/hungry, or in pain.[3] If your loved one has difficulty communicating with you, then it can be difficult to discover the source of why they are feeling aggravated or confused. Hopefully, the tips below can help you respond to your loved one when s/he are experiencing sundowning symptoms.

How to Manage Sundowning Symptoms

(1) Pay attention to lighting: Sundowning often becomes worse when one’s environment becomes darker. This can be due to changes in their sleeping cycle as a result of dementia. If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, make sure that the rooms they are in are well-lit.

(2) Avoid things that negatively impact sleep: Things like watching television late at night, drinking alcohol, or drinking caffeine can often impact your loved one’s sleeping patterns, causing sleep disturbances. To ensure that your loved on stays well-rested, try to cut back on these activities earlier in the day, several hours before bedtime.

(3) Keep the environment stress-free: One of the most important things to do is to keep your loved one calm and stress-free. Your loved one’s environment should not be filled with loud, distracting sounds, flashing lights, or large crowds. Try to keep things quiet and relaxed.

(4) Respond calmly: When your loved one is experiencing symptoms of sundowning, it does not help to respond to them with an aggravated or surprised tone. Instead, try to speak to your loved one in a calm, non-argumentative voice. Ask them what they need and how you can help. Be sure to share words of affirmation and let them know that they will be alright.

(5) Stay active: Staying indoors and not doing anything active increases the chances that your loved one naps during the day. This can inadvertently disturb their sleeping habits, causing them to lose sleep at night, which can lead to being tired and aggravated the following day(s). Instead of staying inside, do activities with your loved one outdoors, like walking, light gardening, or running errands. Any activity that helps your loved one stay awake during the day will help ensure that they sleep soundly and regularly at night.

If you have any other questions about sundowning or degenerative neurological diseases, feel free to call ElderCare at Home at 888-285-0093 or visit our website.

[1] Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/dementia-sundowning

[2] Source: https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/manage-sundowning#1

[3] Source: Ibid.

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