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What is sundowning & how to deal with it

Tuesday, November 20th, 2018 | Blog
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Sundowning is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia that is also known as late-day confusion. Now that the dark nights are upon us, this issue is more prevalent than ever. Sundowning is a term for when confusion worsens in the late afternoon and evening. 20% of those with Alzheimers display signs of this.

Your loved one is more likely to display signs of this if they have mid to advanced stage dementia. C

The causes of sundowning are not understood, but possibilities include being over tired, hunger or thirst, depression, pain and boredom. Other disruptions include low light, physical and mental exhaustion, disruption of the body clock (sleep-wake cycles) and not being able to differentiate between dreams and reality.

Below, we offer some tips of how to deal with your relatives’ indicators, and how to prevent sundowning symptoms:

Build a Schedule

Remembering a routine can be hard, especially if you have dementia. Unfamiliarity can evoke feelings of stress, confusion and anger. These feelings can play a big role in sundowning. Sticking to the same schedule helps you feel calmer and collected, so try and make changes gradually and stick to them.

Let There Be Light

Some studies have suggested that light therapy can reduce agitation and confusion in people with dementia, so ensuring that their surroundings are always light and bright can make a difference. Drawing the curtains so that they don’t see the sky change from day to night can also reduce symptoms.

Be Calm

Keep calm and reassure them if they start to become anxious. Minimizing stress in the evening can help to reduce the symptoms of sundowning. In some stages, watching television or reading a book may even be too much. Frustration and stress can add to irritability, so try playing soft music in a quiet environment.

Ensure a Good Night’s Sleep

Prevention is also an important aspect that can help to decrease symptoms. Being tired can increase restlessness in the early afternoon and evening, so going outside or sitting by the window during the day can help to reset the person’s body clock.

Daily Activity

Taking time out for physical exercise each day is also helpful for staying at a healthy weight, having regular toilet and sleep habits. Getting good sleep at night will also help with sundowning, so exercise is a good way to ensure this.

Adjust Eating & Drinking Habits

Coffee, cola and other caffeinated drinks can make sundowning worse, specifically if they are served late in the day. Alcoholic drinks also add to confusion and anxiety. Large meals can increase agitation and possibly keep them up at night, so a snack or light meal in the evening may make them feel better at night.

If somebody around you is showing signs of Sundowning, and you think they may be in need of care, please call your local Kare Plus branch, and we will be happy to assist you.



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