The 3 Week Diet

Sundowning and Dementia: Tips for Caregivers

sunset_1Dementia presents with a host of symptoms that make care giving particularly challenging compared to conditions that just impact the physical body. The effects on memory, personality, behavior and ability to care for oneself can create a situation that can feel overwhelming at times. Sundowning can be particularly difficult to deal with. It is a condition where many symptoms of dementia, such as confusion, agitation, hallucinations and restlessness worsen throughout the evening. The exact causes have not been pinpointed, but experts believe it may be a combination of several factors, such as fatigue, upset in the internal body clock, less need for sleep, increased shadows and confusion between dreams and reality. Here are some tips for caregivers to cope with this common problem in dementia patients.

Keep Activity Light in the Late Afternoons

Fatigue is believed to be a major contributing factor to sundowning, and keeping activity light in the later afternoons—the period right before symptoms begin—can mitigate some of these effects. Anyone providing care for Alzheimer’s patients knows all too well that mornings tend to be the best and issues progress from there as the day goes on.

Encourage Regular Physical Activity Earlier in the Day

Exercise has been shown to provide many benefits for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Just like anyone else, it promotes the release of endorphins that improve mood and it helps you get a better night’s sleep. Regular physical activity will help promote a nice sense of relaxation in the evenings as your love one transitions to the end of the day.

Keep Your Loved One Engaged

Sundowning is not a set of symptoms that are otherwise not present in this disease; it is merely an intensification of them. This means that irrational thought patterns, hallucinations, illusions, suspicions and fears are in overdrive. It can be very intense and it is easy to feel lost about how to remedy it. Your best line of defense is keeping your loved one engaged in activities that help redirect their attention. It can be anything from a crafting project to folding laundry. Experiment with different activities—you will likely find that your loved one responds to some better than others.

Limit Daytime Sleeping

While in some circumstances, longer daytime naps are not an issue, they are problematic if you are dealing with sundowning. Sleeping for prolonged periods during the day will confuse the body clock, and your loved one will be less tired in the evening. Naps should be about 20 to 30 minutes max. On a related note, it is best if they take place in locations other than the bed, like a recliner or couch.

Don’t Argue

When dealing with someone who has dementia, it is easy to forget that their brain is ‘’broken.’’ When they are hallucinating, or getting upset about something, our natural instinct is to use reason and logic since that is how we deal with most people. It may be hard to resist but arguing with the person is the least effective way of dealing with these issues, especially when these behaviors are on overdrive, as they are in sundowning. They just do not process information in the same way anymore, and just going along with what is happening (provided they are not endangering themselves or others) will be best for loved ones and their caregivers.

Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who blogs about a variety of elder care topics from evaluating assisted living communities to coping with caregiver burnout.

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  1. lewisville assisted living says:

    Thanks for finally talking about > Sundowning and Dementia: Tips for Caregivers | Healthy Living
    Digest < Loved it!

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