Sundowning is a neurological phenomenon associated with increased confusion and restlessness most commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but also found in those with other forms of dementia. The term “sundowning” was coined due to the timing of the patient’s confusion as it typically occurs late in the day or early evening as the sun is setting. The symptoms may include increased confusion, anxiety, aggression, agitation and ignoring directions. Sundowning seems to occur more frequently during the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease and mixed dementia and subsides with the progression of a patient’s dementia.
Here are some useful tips to deal with sundowning behavior:
- Close blinds and drapes so that the decreasing light outdoors is not easily seen.
- Brighten the interior environment with increased lighting being careful to keep the room free from shadows. Dementia sufferers may mistake a shadow for a hole to avoid increasing the risk of falls as they move away to avoid what they believe is a danger.
- Create a calm environment. Turn off the TV and put soothing music on. Be sure the music is era appropriate; Sinatra not Madonna.
- Limit day time napping. While the cause of sundowning is not completely understood, it is known to be a disturbance of the internal clock. Keeping to a set sleep schedule with limited napping is known to help.
- Be patient and distract with an enjoyable activity. View a favorite photo album, brush hair, water indoor plants. Find a calm, soothing activity the senior enjoys and be patient sharing the activity with them.
Here at Manor on the Hill, we incorporate these tips into our evenings to help our Residents who suffer from sundowning helping them get to their bedtime routine and sleep.