Seniors with dementia can often face many problems as their disease progresses; one that is common is sundowning. Sundowning, according to the Mayo Clinic®, is “a state of confusion occurring in the late afternoon and spanning into the night.” While sundowning doesn’t occur in everyone with dementia, it can help to understand what it is and what causes it to help manage symptoms if your loved one is affected.

According to Cydney Hansen, Marketing Director at CountryHouse, a memory care community in Granite Bay, CA, caregivers may begin to feel helpless as their loved one starts facing these symptoms. “As much as your loved one may be calm during the day, the night can bring some different challenges that you might not be used to,” says Cydney. “Sundowning can cause lack of sleep, confusion, agitation and even anger, leaving you unsure of what to do to help them. This can add even more stress to the already stressful lives of caregivers. Fortunately, identifying the cause and finding effective ways to diminish the occurrence of sundowning can help to soothe your loved one and make caregiving slightly easier.”

What Causes Sundowning in Seniors with Dementia?

According to the Alzheimer’s Association® article titled Sleep Issues and Sundowning, there is not a definite idea why sleep issues such as sundowning occur. The article shares that some of the reasons could be due to:

Exhaustion. According to the article, at the end of the day your loved one may be more likely to be physically and emotionally exhausted. This can be because they are trying to deal with various thoughts and confusing feelings throughout the day or even because they are in an unfamiliar environment.

Reduced lighting. Lack of light in the evening can increase the likelihood of shadows appearing. This can make your loved one with dementia feel as though they see something that’s not really there or even misinterpret the things they do see, causing stress and anxiety.

Disorientation. There are times that your loved one may not remember where they are. When this occurs, they may become disoriented which can make them wander. According to the article, it’s also common for those with dementia to have dreams that they can’t distinguish from reality, which can contribute to sundowning.

If you begin to notice your loved one is having increased difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, it can help to talk to a doctor. If they wake up and are upset, anxious or inconsolable, it’s important to stay calm and offer them reassurance. Let them know that you are there for them and don’t take this personally as seniors with dementia have little control over their emotions.

Ways to Reduce the Occurence of Sundowning

While sundowning can be a problem for your loved one with dementia, it doesn’t mean that caregivers simply have to just deal with it. There are a number of ways that you can diminish the effects that sundowning can have on your loved one, according to the Alzheimer’s Association® article, such as:

Keep a strict schedule. Those with dementia benefit from having a routine to follow each day. Try to ensure your loved one goes to bed and wakes up at the same time every day. Share your meals at the same time and try to stick to the same routine as much as possible.

Refrain from certain things in the evening. The article states that certain stimulants should be avoided or limited such as caffeine and nicotine. It’s also important to do all exercises in the morning or early afternoon so it doesn’t keep your loved one up at night. Instead of watching television try to listen to soothing and calming music.

Ensure your loved one’s room is comfortable. Ensure your loved one’s room feels safe to them and is the perfect environment for restful sleep. The article states that the room should be a comfortable temperature and that nightlights can help your loved one to feel safe. If it will make you more comfortable, consider installing door sensors to let you know if your loved one may be about to wander.

Prevent napping with activities. The busier your loved one is, the less likely they will be to take a nap, which can cause them to have issues sleeping later in the day. Plan purposeful activities in the morning like exercise and then plan a more enriching activity for the afternoon. If possible, consider taking them to a local senior living community or senior center to engage with some of the residents and community members there, as this can help them feel involved and look forward to the day.

Consider if you are enhancing their mood. Are you becoming more agitated and tired as nighttime approaches? Try to limit the amount of stress you are facing as your loved one can pick up on that and become even more agitated. The article states that you, as a caregiver, should also try to get plenty of rest during the night for more energy during the day.

If none of these ideas helps your loved one, try attending a support group or talking to an expert who can help to find effective ways to prevent sundowning in your loved one with dementia. Our doors are always open at CountryHouse, whether you need advice and guidance or just a simple rest from caregiving. Talk to our experts today, call us at 916•850•2774.

Treating people like family is at the heart of what we do.

CountryHouse at Granite Bay is the very first CountryHouse location in California. With a desirable location among Folsom Lake and the Sierra foothills, and only 25 miles northeast of Sacramento, Granite Bay was the perfect area to place our upscale memory care community. While CountryHouse at Granite Bay may be brand new to California, we are certainly not new to the needs of seniors. And just like every CountryHouse around the United States, we know that personalized care can make all the difference when it comes to quality care and peace of mind.

At CountryHouse at Granite Bay, we provide personalized memory care in an environment that is beautiful and thoughtfully designed. Full of natural light, warmth and tasteful elegance, we want residents and their families to feel welcome and at home. In fact, our staff members are even hand-picked based on their natural empathy. Our staff learns each resident’s story, from their likes and dislikes to their values and their pasts, in order to customize care and make meaningful connections that provide residents with true moments of joy and the desire to make the most of each day.

With our LifeCycles wellness programming, we encourage residents to connect, engage and enjoy every day. Our LifeCycles programming is designed to focus on the four dimensions of wellness: physical, social, spiritual and intellectual. We achieve this through a range of daily activities and routines, which can include daily bus rides, cookouts, trips and other special events. At CountryHouse at Granite Bay, we strive to make sure our residents make the most of each day, and we believe that when you treat people like family, and keep that at the heart of what you do, residents, their families and their health thrive. Contact us to learn more!

Connect with us today or call us at 916•850•2774 for more information or to schedule a visit.

CountryHouse is part of the Agemark family of senior living communities.