4 Things To Know About Sundowning

4 Things To Know About Sundowning

From Lara Richardson

4 Things To Know About Sundowning

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This article will discuss everything a caregiver or loved one needs to know about sundowning behaviors. This primarily affects the elderly and those who suffer from forms of memory loss like dementia and Alzheimer’s. It can be overwhelming caring for someone with memory loss, but  Idaho memory care by The Gables offers support, information, and full-time care for those suffering from memory loss and sundowning.

This term refers to behaviors that take place at a specific time of day. 

Sundowning usually manifests itself in the form of:

  • Wandering

  • Agitation

  • Confusion

  • Hallucinations

  • Ignoring

These are just a few of the signs of sundowning. Many people who suffer from dementia-type illness have these symptoms regularly. However, they can get increasingly worse in the late afternoon and evening times. If there is a noticeable change in behavior as the sun starts to set, it is likely that the person is experiencing the sundowning effect. 

Scientifically, the brain is directly impacted by memory loss disease. That is why the symptoms are usually mentally and cognitively expressed. Those who have suffered from cognitive decline, usually due to age, may have a disrupted biological clock which affects sleep-wake cycles. This can cause the person to become overly tired, which is never a good thing for anyone. 

While the definitive answer to this question is still unknown, many researchers agree that the behaviors are due to circadian rhythms. Some other trivial factors could be the actual loss of light as the sun goes down. This can increase confusion because of low visibility and increased shadows. 

Sundowning is a symptom of a disease. It could be argued that the same steps taken to prevent memory loss could potentially prevent sundowning in a direct or indirect way. Just like there is no scientific conclusion as to what causes sundowning, there is no foolproof way to prevent it either. However, these are a few ideas that could help and are worth a try. 

  • Schedule

  • Adjust Light Indoors

  • Diet- Caffeine/ Alcohol

  • Maintain Healthy Stress Levels

  • Physical Activity

Having and sticking to a consistent schedule as well as adjusting the light in the house will both help the body maintain those all-important circadian rhythms. Limiting caffeine and alcohol, especially in the evening, will also aid in regulating sleep-wake cycles. Stress is shown to increase all symptoms of those who suffer from memory loss, and exercise could be considered part of managing stress. Physical activity will also make the body more tired. The elderly tend to be immobile most of the time, and that could cause a disruption in the cycle as well.

Having to care for a loved one experiencing sundowning can seem overwhelming to say the least. Don’t forget that the caregiver cannot help the one in need of care without a full cup. There is a lot of memory care information on the Idaho memory care page that could be a good resource for caregivers. If nothing else, it will be a testament to what is considered normal or common behavior. 

Part of being able to manage the effects of sundowning is knowing how it is expressed. Keep a diary or journal of what things are happening when, and try to find any possible connections. This will aid in the search for effective sundowning management. Improving sleep is a huge part of combating sundowning. Consider talking to a doctor about a pharmaceutical approach to help with sleep. 

If someone starts exhibiting signs of sundowning it is best to stay calm. Becoming irritated or frustrated will only make things worse. Peacefully ask if there is anything the person needs and if there is something specific do your best to address the issue. It is an okay idea to remind them of the time because they likely do not know, especially if it is summer and the days are long. No matter what happens, assure the person that they are safe and taken care of and that everything is being done to try to make them feel better. 

In summary: 1. Remain calm 2. Ask about their needs 3. Show them the time 4. Reassure them they are safe

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