Sundowning is a major issue for many senior citizens who are dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. The term refers broadly to a number of symptoms occurring in elderly patients after the time of sunset.
Sundowning refers to a wide range of different symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, aggression, pacing, wandering, screaming, visual hallucinations, and more. Unfortunately, sundowning has is known as a common cause of institutionalization of older dementia patients as it can pose many problems to seniors living independently.
While sundowning is common among seniors, especially those with dementia, there are preventative measures that you can take to help reduce sundowning related symptoms and even try to avoid the problem entirely.
What Is Sundowning?
Sundowning is a common symptom associated with Alzheimer’s disease. It is a condition that occurs in the late afternoon and early evening in which a person experiences restlessness, agitation, irritability, or confusion. The problem begins or worsens as the sun sets, unfortunately, this often coincides when a caretaker needs a break.
Oftentimes, sundowning can continue into the night and make it hard for those with Alzheimer’s to fall and stay asleep. As mentioned before, this can cause problems for not only the Alzheimer’s patient but their caregiver as well.
There are a number of potential reasons that may cause issues related to sundowning, however, none are confirmed. One possibility for sundowning is that Alzheimer’s-related issues can affect a person’s biological clock which can cause issues with a person’s circadian rhythm and their sleep-wake cycles.
Other possible causes of sundowning include being overly tired, hunger or thirst, depression, pain, and boredom.
Coping Tips For Sundowning
If you notice signs of sundowning in the late afternoon or early evening, there are a number of changes that you can make to your loved one’s daily routine to help deal with issues related to sundowning. Some of these signs that point to sundowning include increased confusion or anxiety and behaviors such as pacing, wandering, or yelling.
If you notice that your loved one is becoming increasingly agitated, listen calmly to what they have to say and work to address these concerns or frustrations. You can work to reassure that the person is OK. There are a number of different things you can do to distract them from stressful environments.
Some tips that you can try include:
Reduce Noises — One great way to help induce sleep is to be sure that your loved one is in a peaceful and quiet environment that can help them overcome issues related to sundowning.
Distractions — There are a number of things that you can do to help distract a person who is dealing with sundowning, including offering them their favorite snack or turning on one of their favorite television shows. These things can help offer a distraction so that they avoid problems that are related to sundowning like agitation and confusion.
Create A Routine — One of the best ways that you can help your loved one get to sleep and stay asleep is to create a sleep schedule. One way you can do this is to play soothing music before bed or do another activity like go on a walk or read a book. All of these things will help calm your loved one down and induce sleep. Moreover, doing these things at the same time each night will help create a routine.
Get Rid Of Excess Light — Investing in blackout curtains or blinds can help to minimize shadows and help seniors avoid confusion as the sun begins to set. It can also be effective in helping them stay asleep and not wake up in the middle of the night from light.
Along with these tips for dealing with a loved one that has sundowning, there are also some preventative measures that you can take to hopefully avoid the problem entirely.
Some ways that you can work to avoid this situation include:
Exposure To Bright Light — Exposing the body to bright light, especially natural sunlight, is a great way to help reset the body’s clock and improve circadian rhythm.
Exercise — Physical activity and exercise will not only improve overall health but it can make a huge difference when you’re loved one lays down to go to sleep. Exercise works to make the body tired and, in turn, people tend to fall asleep faster.
Avoid Napping — While naps don’t need to be avoided entirely, it is best to keep naps short and not too late in the day.
There are a number of things that you should avoid if you are working to prevent issues related to sundowning. For instance, avoiding coffee, cola, and other caffeinated drinks late in the day can help you avoid making sundowning worse. Avoiding alcoholic drinks and not planning too many activities during the day are also ways to get past that.
Sundowning is a serious side effect of dementia. It can cause a number of problematic symptoms including anxiety, agitation, wandering, screaming, hallucinations, and more. Unfortunately, sundowning is something that often interferes with a patient’s ability to live independently. With that said, many assisted living facilities and caregivers can give your loved one the quality care that they need to help them overcome sundowning and other dementia-related issues. Landmark Senior Living is one assisted living facility that can help you or your loved one deal with these day-to-day activities.
Landmark Senior Living offers our residents a number of different care options and services to help them deal with certain issues they may be facing. For example, Landmark offers many different types of services including memory care which can help with problems like Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Likewise, Landmark can help with social engagement through social events and activities to help. If you would like to learn more about Landmark and what we can offer, you can go to our website and schedule a complimentary walkthrough of one of our assisted living facilities in New Mexico.