Some individuals with dementia can experience heightened symptoms of confusion in the later part of the day, known as sundown syndrome, or sundowning. Sundowning can manifest as different behaviors ranging from anxiety and worry to agitation and an unwillingness to comply with requests. Some may also wander and pace around. Sundowning is not a disease but rather a group of symptoms. It is still being studied, as its exact cause or origins are unknown. Fading light appears to be a trigger, and symptoms typically subside by morning. Sundowning also tends to get worse in the winter as the days get shorter.
Symptoms of Sundowning
When an individual with dementia is sundowning, they may exhibit symptoms including:
- Paranoia or suspicion
- Being overly demanding
They may become violent, pace around, yell or shout, or display severe mood swings. Although you may be unable to put a stop to your loved one’s sundowning symptoms, there are steps you can take to manage this difficult time of day, enabling everyone in the household to get better and function better in the daytime.
According to some studies, light therapy may help to reduce sundowning symptoms in individuals with dementia. Turn on extra bright lights in your home when evening falls, or consider setting up a full-spectrum fluorescent light a few feet away from your loved one every morning and leaving it on for a few hours.
Set a Daily Routine
Make a regular schedule for waking up, mealtimes, and bedtimes. Outings, appointments, visits, and bath or shower time should be scheduled in the earlier part of the day when it is light out.
Factors that affect sleep like the consumption of caffeine and sweets should occur no later than late morning. Evening meals should be kept light, and your loved one should not engage in exercise no later than four hours before bedtime. Avoid letting them nap, or let them take shorter naps earlier in the day.
Keep It Calm
As night falls, keep the surroundings calm and peaceful. Adjust the temperature accordingly, draw the blinds or curtains, and turn on the lights, especially since symptoms are triggered by darkness and shadows. Ask others in the house to decrease their volume. Help your loved one wind down with relaxing activities like reading or listening to music. Don’t forget to take care of yourself and be relaxed and well-rested; your loved one is likely to follow suit.
Note Down Everything
Every individual has different sundowning triggers for sundowning. You should track your loved one’s behaviors and reactions to their environments, daily activities, and interaction. Find patterns and identity triggers to make symptoms worse. It will then be easier to avoid similar situations in the future. Make sure to notify your loved one’s doctor about your findings and any changes you have observed.
Embark on Memory Care with TerraBella Lake Norman
If you require care and support for a loved one with dementia or other memory-related conditions, look no further than the memory care program at TerraBella Lake Norman. If you are interested to find out more about our approach and programs, contact our team and we will be more than happy to schedule a tour and address any questions and concerns you may have.