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When the Sun Goes Down: Understanding One of Alzheimer’s Most Common Behaviors

Posted by admin on April 22, 2013

If you are a caregiver for a friend or family member living with Alzheimer’s disease, you have probably heard the term “sundowning”. You may even be experiencing the behavior with your loved one.

What is “sundowning” or Sundown Syndrome?

For caregivers this is one of the most difficult behaviors to manage and even more difficult to watch a loved one suffer through. As the sun begins to fall, agitation, anxiety, and confusion climb. Pacing and wandering are often at their peak. Estimates are that about 20 – 25% of those living with Alzheimer’s disease experience sundowning. Caregivers typically find that sundowning is at its peak when their own energy level is at its lowest

How can caregivers manage sundowning?

The Alzheimer’s and dementia experts at Stay at Home Personal Care in Virginia offer the following advice to help exhausted caregivers cope:

  • Limit caffeine and sugar intake to mornings. Sugary treats and caffeinated drinks later in the day may keep your loved one from sleeping at night.
  • Discourage your family member from taking a nap in the afternoon.
  • You may be able to help minimize agitation if you monitor the noise level – including the radio and television – later in the day.
  • Try not to plan evening activities that could be over-stimulating. Instead, take a casual stroll around a peaceful part of your neighborhood with your loved one in the late afternoon before the sun starts to set.
  • Make sure your family member has enough to eat and drink. As Alzheimer’s progresses, it robs a person of their ability to communicate. Agitation and anxiety can sometimes be attributed to hunger or thirst.
  • Speak in a low voice and try to remain calm. This may be difficult to do if you are exhausted and struggling to keep up with a loved one who is overly agitated. But raising your voice only escalates the issues.
  • Any way you look at it, Alzheimer’s disease is exhausting for caregivers. Consider the use of in-home respite services a few times a week to help cope.

The dementia care experts at Stay at Home Personal Care have developed a comprehensive toolbox of resources to help families. “Managing Alzheimer’s Disease at Home includes more in-depth information and hands-on tools to support families. There is no charge to download and share these resources.

Are you caring for someone with Sundowning Syndrome?

What helps you cope?

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