What is Sundowning Syndrome?
Sundowning is a symptom of dementia. It’s also known as “late-day confusion.” You may notice that some residents’ confusion and agitation gets worse in the late afternoon and evening compared to their symptoms earlier in the day. There are a number of things we as caretakers can do to reduce sundowning and benefit our residents.
Stick to a Schedule
Stick to the same schedule every day to help residents feel more calm and collected. Try to avoid making changes to routines that work for them. If you need to make changes, try to adjust their routine gradually and as little as possible.
Adjust the Lighting
Some residents may experience sundowning as the result of changes in their circadian rhythms — their sleep-wake cycles. Light therapy—brightening the light, or using full-spectrum florescent lights a couple hours a day might help reduce their symptoms.
Keep Them Busy
Too much daytime dozing and inactivity can make for a difficult bedtime. To promote a good night’s sleep, help them stay active during the day. Take them for a walk, do an art project, or dance with them. This might help improve their sleep quality and reduce their sundowning symptoms while also helping them enjoy better physical health.
Adjust Eating Patterns
There is evidence that limiting evening food intake to a hearty snack or light meal will help them feel more comfortable and rest easier at night.
Frustration and stress can add to confusion and irritability. To help the resident stay calm in the evening hours encourage him/her to stick to simple activities that aren’t too challenging like listening to soft music or a light-hearted book on tape.
Comfort in Familiarity
Residents’ apartments and common areas should be filled with things they cherish and find comforting. In the case of new residents, this may help ease the transition and curb their sundowning symptoms. Do what you can to ensure sure they are comfortable with their surroundings.
Understand the Triggers
Each resident has different triggers for sundowning. Look for patterns to learn which activities or environments seem to make their symptoms worse and then try to help them avoid those triggers whenever possible.
Care for Yourself!
Taking care of numerous residents with Sundowning Syndrome can be exhausting. You should try to eat a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly, take breaks at work, and get enough sleep at night so you can help manage the effects of Sundowning Syndrome on our residents and on you!