Sundowning is one of the most known associates of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. It is a state of increased agitation and negative behaviors that happen later in the day through the evening hours. Many used to believe that the lowering of light and shorter days caused sundowning, but recent researched has proven to be different. Experts say that those with Alzheimer’s communicate through their behaviors when they are at a loss of words. These individuals have a low tolerance for stress and change because they have a difficult time expressing how they feel about it. Research is now suggesting that an individual’s “inability to deal with stress” caused by Alzheimer’s is one of the main triggers for sundowning.
As a caregiver, managing the negative behaviors that accompany sundowning can be challenging. Here are a few helpful tips on how to avoid sundowning with your loved one.
Keep a Routine: Establishing and maintaining a daily routine with your loved one will help reduce stress and anxiety. Routines will help minimize surprises for your loved one and will make them feel comfortable in their environment.
Make Sure You Loved One Gets Plenty of Sleep: Fatigue can trigger sundowning behaviors toward the end of the day. Make sure your loved one gets plenty of rest at night and even a mid-morning nap to keep their energy up till bedtime. If your loved one cannot or will not nap, try an hour of quiet time (low stimulation or activity) to help them recharge.
Recognize Physical Discomfort: Various types of physical discomfort can also lead to sundowning. Being too hot/cold, hunger, being wet or soiled or other general pains can increase agitation and lead to negative behaviors in the afternoon. Be aware of your loved one’s comfort levels. Learning how they are trying to communicate their pains, needs and wants to you.
Keep Things Simple and Quiet: Reduce clutter in your home and create clear and safe walking paths for your loved one. Keep the layout of your home simple and easy to maneuver around to avoid your loved one from feeling lost or confused. During the later half of the day, try and reduce the noise of the TV or radio to create a pleasant atmosphere for your loved one to relax in. Too much noise can be over stimulating and increase afternoon/evening agitation.
Consult Your Loved One’s Doctor: If your loved one’s sundowning becomes too troublesome, visit with their doctor to make sure all their medication is correct. Their medication may need to be changed to fit their needs the best. Also, consult with their doctor for any medical treatment needed. Individuals with arthritis, UTI’s or other common illnesses in the elderly may be part of the cause for sundowning.