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Sundowning is a symptom of some forms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Many call it “late day confusion”. If a loved one or patient shows more agitation and confusion by the late afternoon or evening, this is considered sundowning. The trigger seems to be fading light and as it grows darker symptoms may get worse, gradually improving toward the morning.

Some of the symptoms of sundowning are:

  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Restlessness and irritability

They may also show signs of suspicion for no reason and become very demanding. Some patients have mood swings and may yell or see and hear things that aren’t there. Though about 20% of Alzheimer’s patients show symptoms of sundowning it can also happen with older people who don’t have dementia. Some seniors become confused when they are dehydrated and this tends to be in the evening. A lot of older people cut down on fluid intake before bed to avoid having to get up during the night to use the bathroom.

How can sundowning be reduced?

Keep stress to a minimum

Increased stress is responsible for worsening of symptoms with many diseases but with dementia and Alzheimer’s it is especially important that your loved one stay calm. Later in the day, stick to quiet activities that are simple and won’t lead to frustration. Playing calming music can help create a quiet, relaxed environment.

Change eating patterns

Large meals, particularly those which are accompanied by alcohol or caffeine can keep your loved one awake at night. Adjust the quantities of meals, starting with a large breakfast, a medium size lunch and then a light supper or snack later in the day. Ensure that they are drinking plenty of fluids.

While caring for someone who exhibits sundowning symptoms, you may find yourself becoming worn out. Always make sure you take care of yourself physically and mentally so you have something to give afterward. To read more on reducing sundowning and caring for yourself, click here.