7 Tips for Alleviating Sundowning

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It’s fairly common for people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia to develop a type of late-day confusion referred to as sundowning. According to the National Institute on Aging, this condition is believed to be linked to brain-related changes that affect the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Anxiety, aggression, and other problematic behaviors, such as ignoring directions, can be experienced as well. Today, we’re going to focus on seven tips that could make it easier to address sundowning issues affecting a senior loved one. 

1. Look for Patterns

Each individual with Alzheimer’s or dementia is different when it comes to how sundowning is experienced. Start by observing how your loved one is acting on a daily basis. Pay particular attention to: 

  • Activities that seem to trigger agitation 
  • Times of the day when sundowning symptoms start to appear 
  • What environments seem to trigger sundowning (e.g., being in certain parts of the home)

If your loved one’s sundowning is due to advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s, he or she may need a higher level of care than a family member can provide. Caring for a senior with dementia can be challenging for family caregivers. Luckily, there is dementia care Green Valley families can rely on. Professional dementia caregivers help seniors with dementia stay safe and comfortable at home by preventing wandering, providing cognitive stimulation, and assisting with household chores. 

2. Take Care of Basic Needs Ahead of Time

If your loved one is thirsty, bored, or uncomfortable, sundowning symptoms may be more noticeable or severe. Minimize these potential contributing factors by taking steps to make sure your loved one’s basic needs are taken care of about an hour or two before symptoms usually start to appear. 

3. Reduce Potential Distractions

Sundowning is sometimes triggered by an overstimulation of the senses. If this appears to be the case for your loved one, make an effort to reduce possible distractions by: 

  • Closing blinds if the afternoon or setting sun is a trigger 
  • Turning on lights to eliminate shadows in dark corners 
  • Lowering the volume on the TV or radio if excess noise seems to be a trigger

4. Do More Demanding Activities Earlier in the Day

Seniors with dementia tend to be more alert earlier in the day. For this reason, it’s often best to get bathing and other more demanding activities done before sundowning occurs and when your loved one is more likely to be in an agreeable mood. 

5. Stick to Regular Daily Routines

Seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia who experience mood shifts due to sundowning are sometimes less affected if they have familiar routines. Doing things like eating, sleeping, and even favorite activities according to a fairly consistent schedule also creates a feeling of security that can be beneficial. 

Not every senior has the same care needs, which means they don’t all need the same type of elder care. You can rely on Embrace In-Home Care to provide an individualized care plan to meet your elderly loved one’s unique care needs. Our caregivers help seniors focus on healthy lifestyle habits, such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and maintaining strong social ties, and we offer mentally stimulating activities that can boost cognitive health.

6. Pay Attention to Sleep Habits

Being tired during the day due to lack of sufficient sleep may worsen sundowning symptoms. Structure your loved one’s day so he or she isn’t tempted to nap too often. Also, encourage a healthy sleep routine by avoiding heavy meals later in the day and limiting stimulants like coffee and alcohol. Some seniors also sleep better with white noise machines or weighted blankets. 

7. Create a Calm, Soothing Environment

Once you know when sundowning is likely to be an issue, make an effort to keep your loved one’s immediate environment as calm and relaxing as possible. You might do this by: 

  • Playing soft music 
  • Planning activities you know your loved one enjoys 
  • Using aromatherapy if your loved one is soothed by pleasant scents 

Sundowning can be one of the most challenging aspects of aging. Seniors can face a variety of challenges as they age, many of which can be mitigated with the help of professional in-home caregivers who provide high-quality homecare. Green Valley families trust Embrace In-Home Care to help their elderly loved ones age in place safely and comfortably. If your senior loved one needs assistance with the challenges of aging, reach out to one of our knowledgeable, compassionate Care Managers today at (520) 625-2050.


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