Bring Back Sunshine: Helping Loved Ones Cope with Sundowning

Elderly man trying to remember his ageLate afternoons are usually the favorite part of the day for most people. They wrap up a tough day at work, go home, and spend the evening with their family. However, this is rarely the case for dementia caregivers. People with Alzheimer’s disease often exhibit changes in behavior, get agitated and restless, yell at their loved ones, and see or hear things that aren’t there — just when the day is over, when the sun goes down. This condition is called “sundowning”.

This erratic behavior continues until the night, preventing patients from sleeping and staying asleep and causing their loved ones to worry. More often, families with Sundowners consider assisted living communities in Las Vegas, especially facilities that can manage the symptoms and relieve them of caregiver burnout.

Nonetheless, if you’re living with a loved one who experiences this symptom, you have the prime responsibility to help them cope. Here are some tips on doing that:

Establish a routine

Sometimes, it’s the unfamiliar things that agitate people suffering from dementia. Your strategy here is to have a daily schedule they can follow, reducing surprises that would stress them out. Stick to usual sleeping and waking times and meal schedules. Your daily routine should let them be active during the day, reducing daytime naps as much as possible and doing low-impact exercises. If you would need to change something in their routine, do it gradually.

Light up your space

It’s believed that Sundowner’s syndrome happens due to the change in circadian cycles (waking and sleeping) of patients. Research says that using full-spectrum fluorescent lights can alter that circadian rhythm and reduce agitation among patients. Keep one in your loved one’s bedroom. Make sure to keep your home well lit as the night approaches to avoid changes in light conditions that would otherwise be interpreted as shadows or whatnot by patients.

Reduce the stress

Keep your loved ones from doing challenging activities in the late afternoon and in the early evening. Frustration and pressure will just add to the agitation they would feel. Instead, make this time a quiet and peaceful period. Turn off the TV, play relaxing music, and let them read a book or play cards with them. Set a comfortable temperature and close the curtains or blinds.

Sundowning is a common struggle of many dementia patients, along with their caregivers. If you think you’re experiencing caregiver burnout, consider assisted living facilities for your loved one.