Sundowning: Tips for Prevention

Sundowning: Tips for Prevention

Sundowning: Tips for Prevention

In today’s blog, we will go over “sundowning” and how to help reduce frustration and confusion in your loved one. In general, “sundowning” is when your loved one with dementia experiences anxiety, agitation, and confusion late in the day.[1] [2] Sometimes, your loved one will experience sleep disturbances, leading to more behavioral problems due to a lack of sleep. For reasons that are still unknown, late afternoons are usually a time when symptoms like these peak. Possible causes for sundowning may include lack of sleep, having unmet needs (like thirst or hunger), being depressed, being in pain, or feeling bored.[3] As a result, your loved one might yell, be extremely irritable, experience hallucinations, and can be very unpleasant to interact with. On top of these facts, late afternoons may be when family caregivers also reach a period of exhaustion in the day, so responding to sundowning can be very difficult since it requires even more energy.

Although, it may be difficult to prevent sundowning every time, there can be strategies you can deploy as a caregiver to reduce these symptoms in your loved one. Consider these tips:

  • Maintain a consistent schedule: This applies to both family caregivers and their loved ones. Try to establish consistent eating/snacking times, times for activities, and a bedtime. Sometimes, when there are new things in the environment or unfamiliar tasks, your loved one may react negatively. So, consistency helps keep things predictable, which can help keep your loved one from reacting negatively to unfamiliar stimuli.
  • Distract your loved one: If your loved one is already agitated or confused, try distracting them. This can easily be done by asking them if they are hungry or thirsty. Sometimes, quenching thirst and satisfying hunger can be the exact answer to your loved one’s behaviors because they may have been feeling hungry or thirsty in the first place. Other strategies can involve asking your loved one if they want to help make the bed or put away silverware. Anything you can do to help bring them away from negative feelings can work. You know your loved one best, so if you have other ideas, be sure to try them out!
  • Increase activity: Like anyone who sleeps during the day, your loved one may be awake at night because they have already rested at an earlier time. This can disturb a normal sleeping schedule. To avoid this, try to incorporate some light activities in the middle of the day. “Activity” does not necessarily mean exercise, although you can certainly take walks with your loved one if they are able. Activity can also be doing some daily tasks like taking your loved one to the store, picking up a prescription, going to visit other family members, or going for doctor’s appointments. These activities help your loved one avoid sleeping during the day, so it does not interfere with their sleep schedule, which can have effects on their mood and behaviors.

Addressing sundowning can be tough. Some days will be better than others, but we recommend considering the above steps to help minimize challenges. If you have any questions feel free to call ElderCare at Home at 888-285-0093 or visit our website!

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