There are people in the world that make it a point to watch every sunset, every day. It reminds them of the simple joys in life. It’s a time of day to relinquish worries and concerns and let the night bring a sense of relaxation and peace to another day that has unfolded. For others, it is a time of concern. Their loved one has Alzheimer’s, or another form of dementia, and it is at this time of day that they become agitated, possibly aggressive, and have a tendency to wander away from home and become lost. It is such a common occurrence that society has given it a name: sundowning.
Sundowning is also known as “late day confusion” and appears to be triggered by fading light. Those experiencing it may become agitated, restless, irritable and confused. They may become suspicious, even of close family members, and hear or see things that really aren’t there. Though there is not a definitive cause, there are several factors that seem to be linked to this occurrence including fatigue, sleep problems, experiencing pain, or feelings of thirst or hunger. Because of the time of day it occurs, scientists believe that the shadows that come out as dusk settles may be confusing and create fear for those with dementia. Others believe it may be brought on by one’s difficulty separating dreams from reality.
You can minimize the occurrence of sundowning by incorporating a few of these proven strategies.
- Routine is very important to a person suffering from dementia. Develop a daily schedule for your parent that keeps them active and engaged. Limit nap times to no more than 30 minutes earlier in the day to ensure they are tired and ready for bed when evening descends. Schedule exercise into their daily routine, possibly a walk just before sunset. Develop a bedtime routine that may include a warm bath filled with Epsom salts and lavender, reading a good book together, enjoying a relaxing, simple meal while listening to soothing music or nature sounds.
- Limit the following from their diet: caffeine, sugar, nicotine and alcohol.
- Close the curtains and blinds and turn on the lights prior to sunset to keep shadows to a minimum. Make sure their home is well lit and install motion sensor lighting or nightlights in appropriate places.
- Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone, has worked for some people to ease the effects of sundowning. Getting plenty of natural light during the day has also been linked to the lessening of sundowning. Be sure to check with your parent’s primary health care provider before adding a supplement to their medications.
Elder Care Provider
Hire an elder care provider to assist your parent a few days a week or more, depending on your schedule. They have cared for countless seniors with this disease and understand the challenges they face. They can prepare healthy meals, accompany them on walks, assist with daily activities and ensure they are safe as evening descends and following a structured, relaxing routine.
If you or an aging loved one are considering elder care in Wake Forest, NC or the surrounding areas, please contact the friendly staff at HomeChoice Home Care Services. Call today (919) 847-5622