Many seniors with dementia experience “sundowning”—when the sun begins to set, they become agitated or restless. They may wander the house as though they’re searching for something. While this behavior can be difficult for caregivers—who usually need a break by the time evening arrives—to manage, there are useful ways to address sundowning.
1. Normalize the Internal Clock
Oftentimes, sundowning is caused by inadequate sleep. Seniors who are too tired by the time the sun sets are more likely to experience the agitation and restlessness associated with sundowning. To prevent sundowning, it’s important for seniors to have a normal, healthy sleep schedule. To ensure your aging loved one’s internal clock is on the right schedule, make sure he or she gets a little sunshine every day to reset the circadian rhythms that govern sleep. If possible, encourage your loved one to get some exercise on a regular basis, as physical activity wears out the body in preparation for deep sleep. Your loved one should also go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
Exercise and rest are important for caregivers, too. Family caregivers need to care for their own wellbeing. If you’re caring for an aging loved one and are feeling overwhelmed, consider hiring a professional caregiver to provide respite care. Tucson, AZ, families who want to prevent burnout can turn to Home Care Assistance. One of our professional caregivers can assist your loved one at home while you take a nap, go to work, run errands, or go on vacation.
2. Avoid Triggers
Certain foods and beverages can contribute to sundowning. Seniors with dementia should avoid caffeinated beverages in the afternoon and evening, as they can disrupt the sleep schedule. Seniors should also stay away from alcoholic beverages, which can increase feelings of confusion.
It can be difficult to monitor what your loved one eats and drinks all day. Caring for a senior with dementia can be challenging for family caregivers. Luckily, there is dementia care Tucson families can rely on. Professional dementia caregivers help seniors with dementia stay safe and comfortable at home by preventing wandering, providing cognitive stimulation, and assisting with household chores.
3. Modify the Environment
For seniors with dementia, their living space has a big impact on their mental state. To reduce sundowning, make a few simple modifications to your loved one’s surroundings. While it’s a good idea to have the curtains open during the day to provide exposure to sunlight, you should close them as evening arrives. As the sun sets, the changing light patterns and shadows can be disorienting for seniors with dementia. You should also try to keep the living space clutter free because excessive visual stimulation can increase feelings of confusion.
4. Look for Individual Causes
There are general causes of sundowning, such as excessive tiredness and boredom. However, every senior is different, and if you want to determine the cause of your loved one’s sundowning, watch his or her behavior closely—it may be caused by simple thirst or hunger. If so, rearrange your loved one’s schedule to accommodate these unmet needs.
Sundowning can also be caused by pain. Seniors who have chronic pain conditions such as arthritis may experience an increase in their pain levels as evening sets. However, dementia may prevent them from verbalizing this pain. In these situations, providing pain relief may put an end to the sundowning.
5. Find an Effective Distraction
To prevent your loved one from wandering in the early evening hours, find an effective distraction. Some seniors can be distracted by a particular activity, such as coloring in coloring books or folding towels. Others may become absorbed by a particular song or television show. If you can identify an activity, object, or media example your loved one responds strongly to, it may prevent sundowning.
Sundowning can be a challenge for family caregivers to manage, and it may be a good idea for families who have loved ones with dementia to seek the help of professional caregivers. Families looking for top-rated Tucson senior care providers can reach out to Home Care Assistance. From respite care to specialized Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care, there are many ways we can make life easier for seniors and their loved ones. If you need professional care for your loved one, reach out to one of our Care Managers today at (520) 214-5440.