Sundowning is a common behavior among people with dementia. It refers to a phenomenon that can begin in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or other forms of cognitive impairment. Sundowning behaviors include wandering, agitation, confusion, and even aggression or violence.
Sundowning is not caused by medications or any other medical condition. Instead, this condition is often related to stress and anxiety about the coming nightfall and all that it represents for someone living with dementia. The term “sundowning” comes from the fact that these behaviors often occur around sunset.
Jacksonville, Florida, Assisted Living Experts Weigh in: Why Do People Experience Sundowning?
Even though there are no definitive answers about what causes sundowning symptoms, there are a few theories about why it occurs.
When people with dementia become anxious or stressed, they may exhibit signs of sundowning. This could be because when it gets dark outside, they become confused about where they are and what time it is.
Some experts believe that sundowning is related to circadian rhythm disorders. People with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia tend to have disrupted sleep patterns, which can contribute to sundowning behaviors.
Symptoms of Sundowning
People with sundowning may:
- Become agitated or anxious at night
- Have hallucinations or delusions
- Have trouble sleeping
- Fail to recognize family members or caregivers
- Wander or sleepwalk
- Feel depressed or irritable
- Cry or exhibit mood changes
People with dementia may show these symptoms during the day, but with Sundowning, this behavior often worsens at night. This can make it hard to get a good night’s sleep. And if they’re unable to sleep well, it can cause even more confusion and agitation the next morning.
Coping with Sundowning — Tips from a Leading CCRC in Jacksonville, Florida
Sundowning can be very difficult for both the person suffering from it and their family. However, there are some things you can do as a caregiver to help make this process easier.
Help your loved one manage a daily routine. A healthy routine can help individuals with memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease feel less stressed daily. Moving to a Jacksonville, Florida, assisted living community can help, as trained staff members help residents confidently navigate their daily routine.
Try not to ask your loved one too many questions at once; it may overwhelm or confuse them. Instead, ask one question at a time and wait until they’ve answered before asking another.
Don’t force your loved ones to do anything they don’t want to do. Instead, try suggesting fun activities that won’t make them feel stressed or anxious.
If your loved one becomes agitated, stay calm and try not to argue. If you lose your temper, it could make matters worse and lead to an escalation of aggressive behavior.
If possible, plan your outings to avoid late-afternoon hours, and try to keep your loved one inside during these hours. This prevents them from getting lost or wandering away from home. If you must go outside during this time of day, make sure someone is always with your loved one.