What Is Sundowning And Is It A Sign Of Dementia?

If a loved one seems to be more confused or agitated toward the end of the day, it may be a sign of sundowning. According to theĀ Cleveland Clinic, sundowning occurs as a symptom of dementia, and 20% of people who have Alzheimer's disease will experience sundowning. Some other behaviors of sundowning include insomnia, restlessness or pacing, violent outbursts, crying, or following someone around. Sundowning also can make people feel sad, anxious, or afraid. However, not all people who exhibit sundowning behavior have dementia (via Cleveland Clinic).

Sundowning might occur if someone spends the day in an unfamiliar place that is confusing or exhausting, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Disrupting the circadian rhythm of someone with dementia might also cause sundowning. If the living quarters aren't adequately lit, the shadows might cause someone with dementia to have an incomplete or inaccurate perception of the shadows. Someone with dementia might pick up stressful nonverbal cues from a caregiver, which could result in sundowning. Other factors that might contribute to sundowning include boredom, pain, hunger, thirst, or an infection, according to the Mayo Clinic.

How can I help someone who's sundowning?

The Alzheimer's Association suggests adopting a calm, reassuring approach while addressing the needs of someone experiencing sundowning. To prevent or limit episodes of sundowning, the Mayo Clinic advises keeping a familiar routine for dementia patients and keeping them mostly active during the day. To help with sleep, adopt a wind-down routine that reduces excess noise and activity, and limits the amount of television. It also helps to have some familiar or gentle sounds in the evening. You'll need to limit napping and make sure caffeine and sugar are consumed only in the morning.

The Alzheimer's Association says it's best to make any appointments or trips early in the day for people with dementia to reduce sundowning. To help readjust the body clock, take a walk outside to spend time in the sunlight. In the evening, be sure that the home has adequate lighting to reduce confusion. The Alzheimer's Association suggests keeping track of any events or situations that might trigger sundowning.