Senior man in pajamas sitting outside house at night

As the sun begins to set, most of us can relax after a long day and prepare for a quiet evening to unwind – unless of course you are providing care for a person with dementia. Sundowning, or sundown syndrome, is a frequent occurrence in Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and will produce restless, sleepless nights of anxiety, disorientation, confusion, and agitation – for a few hours around the time the sun sets, or sometimes even for the whole night.

The exact cause behind sundowning in seniors is not fully understood, but contributing factors can include:

  • A disruption in the senior’s internal body clock
  • A need for less sleep
  • Medication side effects
  • The lack of ability to differentiate real life from dreams, bringing about disorientation
  • Mental and/or physical fatigue and exhaustion from a difficult day

Try these tips to help minimize or prevent the effects of sundowning:

  • Prior to sunset, pull down window shades and close drapes, so that the older adult doesn’t notice the darkening sky – and, ensure there’s an abundance of light throughout the house.
  • Try to schedule the older adult’s day to include plenty of activities and discourage late day napping.
  • Switch to calming, soothing activities at the end of the day. Turn off the TV, play peaceful music, and give your loved one a cup of warm herbal tea or milk.
  • Take note of the older adult’s eating habits during the day, limiting sweets and caffeine to the morning hours and serving an earlier dinner.
  • Talk to the senior’s doctor for advice and also to confirm there aren’t any underlying physical conditions contributing to the problem, such as incontinence or other bladder issues or anything causing physical pain. The doctor may recommend a medication to help the senior to relax in the evening.

If, regardless of these strategies, a senior loved one continues to be agitated and is staying awake during the nighttime hours, there are various things you can do to help. First and foremost, remain calm and avoid arguing or getting into drawn-out conversations. Simply provide assurance that your senior loved one is safe and everything is all right. Identify if there’s something the senior needs, and after taking care of any specific concerns, gently remind your senior loved one of the time, and propose getting some rest. The senior might also feel more at ease in a new sleeping environment, such as a favorite chair or guest bedroom, utilizing nightlights or other indirect, soft lighting.

The highly trained and experienced dementia care experts at Anthem Home Care offer a great solution to sundowning or any other challenging behaviors. We are available to take the night shift and help older adults engage in comforting and enjoyable activities when sleep eludes them, allowing family caregivers the opportunity to get the rest they require. We even provide around-the-clock, live-in care to make sure older adults are safe and well looked after any time of day.

To learn more about our home care in Port Aransas and nearby areas, reach out to us at 361-643-2323. We’re available any time and can design a customized plan of care to meet your specific needs, and improve quality of life for a senior you love. For a full list of all of the areas we serve, please visit our Service Area page.