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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Aalberts

Understanding "Sundowning" in Dementia Care


Understanding Sundowning in Dementia Care (with a picture of pink haired girl named Dementia Darling pointing to text)

Caring for a loved one living with dementia can be both rewarding and challenging. One particularly perplexing and distressing behavior that many caregivers encounter is "sundowning."


But what exactly is it?


What is Sundowning?


Sundowning refers to a pattern of increased confusion, agitation, and anxiety that typically occurs in the late afternoon and evening among individuals with dementia. This phenomenon can be incredibly challenging for caregivers and loved ones, as it often leads to disruptive behaviors and significant emotional distress.


Causes of Sundowning


Understanding the potential causes of sundowning can help in managing and mitigating its effects. Some of the common causes include:

  • Fatigue: As the day progresses, individuals may become more tired, leading to increased confusion and agitation.

  • Disruption of the Body's Internal Clock: Dementia can affect the brain's ability to regulate the circadian rhythms, causing disorientation during the evening hours.

  • Sensory Overload: The accumulation of sensory input throughout the day can overwhelm an individual, especially in environments with a lot of activity or noise.

  • Medication Side Effects: Certain medications may have side effects that contribute to sundowning behaviors.


Common Characteristics of Sundowning

Sundowning can manifest in various ways, making it important for caregivers to recognize its signs:

  • Aggression: Increased irritability or anger.

  • Exit Seeking: Attempts to leave the home or safe environment.

  • Wandering: Restless movement that may lead to unsafe situations.

  • Anxiety: Heightened feelings of unease or worry.

  • Sadness: Episodes of crying or withdrawal.

  • Extreme Confusion: Difficulty understanding surroundings or recognizing familiar people.


Tips for Caregivers

While sundowning can be challenging, there are several strategies that caregivers can employ to help manage these behaviors:

  1. Engage in Soothing Activities: Encourage calming activities, such as listening to music, reading, or gentle exercise, especially before or during the time sundowning typically occurs.

  2. Maintain Proper Lighting: As the sun goes down, ensure that the home is well-lit to reduce shadows and help maintain a sense of orientation.

  3. Maintain a Routine: Keeping a consistent daily schedule can provide a sense of stability and predictability.

  4. Minimize Stimulation: Reduce noise, avoid large gatherings, and create a peaceful environment during the late afternoon and evening hours.


Compassionate Care and Support


Sundowning can be incredibly stressful for both the individual with dementia and their caregiver. It is important to remember that while tips and techniques may not work every time, persistence and patience can make a significant difference.

Has your loved one experienced sundowning? Share your experiences in the comments.


Remember, you are not alone.



Does Your Loved One Experience Sundowning?

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