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Sundowning: Caregiving Tips

Updated: Jan 11, 2019

Individuals with sundowning syndrome (occurs in 13% to 66% of people with Alzheimer’s) experience a heightened level of motor activity, confusion, agitation and frustration during the evening as compared to the day. This can be taxing for the individual and the caretaker as this is the part of the day where people wind down and relax. Here are a list of tips to help your loved who is experiencing sundowning:

Look for triggers: Seek out certain actions or objects which seem to greatly upset your loved one during the late afternoon and evening hours and avoid using them. This might help your loved one calm down and feel safe in their environment. Triggers can include loud sounds such as loud music or television.

Be Calm: Individuals who are experiencing sundowning feed off the energy in the environment. If you are agitated and confused, this will greatly impact your loved one’s mood. It’s important for you to stay calm and assess the situation. Speak to them in a smooth tone and do not physically restrain them if they are trying to move around.

Comfort Them: Stay by your loved one’s side and reassure them that they will be alright. A kind word goes a long way.

Safety First: People dealing with dementia view shadows as holes in the ground. As evening approaches the number of shadows in the house increases leading to confusion for your loved one. Use night lights in every room in the house, use gates to block stairways, motion detectors, and monitors to check if your loved one needs any help. In your loved one’s bedroom make sure to keep it clutter free and place pictures of family members on the nightstand. This might will make your loved one feel calm and protected if they wake up in the middle of the night.

Maintain A Schedule: There’s always safety in familiarity. Stick to a routine which can help your loved one relax during the evening hours. Schedule doctor appointments and other trips in the earlier parts of the day. Also, make sure that your loved one doesn’t take naps later than 4 hours before bedtime to promote sleep.

Healthy Eating Individuals experiencing sundowning experience low levels of melatonin secretion during the evening(the hormone which helps you go to sleep). To help promote sleep ensure that your loved one avoids foods that contain caffeine and large amounts of sugar. Avoid having them smoke, drink, and large meals as well.

Plan Activities: Try to redirect your loved one’s attention from the distress or confusion that they are feeling by planning a fun activity. You can listen to calm music, go for a walk, or play a board game with them to aid sleep.

Consult A Doctor: Your loved one’s doctor can help you find the right medication and other lifestyle changes to combat sundowning.




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