Sundowning

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I don’t know about you, but the time change of going back one hour takes me about a week to get use to. Who made the decision to “spring” forward and “fall” back any way?

If you think it might be hard on us, think about those individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

As the sun begins to set and darkness creeps in, a person with dementia has a very hard time adapting. This is what is referred to as “sundowning”.

Doctors and scientists aren’t exactly sure why this happens to people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, but they do have some theories. They think the changes in the brain of someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s may affect their inner body clock. This is an area of the brain that controls when you sleep and when you’re awake; this begins to breakdown as the dementia or Alzheimer’s progresses.

Here are some common behaviors with sundowning:

  • Agitation
  • Disoriented
  • Irritation
  • Suspicious
  • Confusion
  • Demanding

The person might begin to yell, pace or even hallucinate. All of this is part of sundowning.

Be aware of all the different things that can cause your loved one to experience sundowning. As the light begins to fade there are more shadows which can create fear and confusion. They have a hard time knowing what’s a dream and what’s reality. Reassure, never argue or try to reason…it won’t work. Use a calm voice and keep the noise level down. Soft music is a great tool to soothe someone.

If you’ve been with your loved one all day and you begin tiring or become irritable, your loved one will pick up on your emotions and before you know it, they are mirroring you! Yes, caregivers are likely to become annoyed at the end of the day because they are worn out and need some rest. That’s the time to “call it a day”. If you live with your loved one, have someone else relieve you so you can get some sleep/rest. If your loved one lives in a facility, it’s time for you to go home for the night.

Just remember, sundowning is not uncommon for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Don’t feel like your loved one is the only one who experiences this, they aren’t.

If you still have questions and concerns about sundowning there is a plethora of information on the web that can help. The Alzheimer’s Association is, of course, another great resource.

I say this all of the time: Never hesitate to ask questions or for help. There are so many people ready and willing to support you through your journey. God Bless!