Sundowning is a very common symptom of dementia, particularly for Alzheimer’s disease. Some professionals prefer the term “late day confusion” for sundowning. Essentially, the later it gets in the day, the more likely it is for an individual with dementia to exhibit agitation and confusion.
Often, the symptoms get even worse at night, which is why many laypersons call this behavioral phenomenon “sundowning.” While there is no direct cure for sundowning, sticking to a schedule and light therapy can help with the symptoms associated with it.
Sticking to a schedule
Dementia of any sort makes it difficult for the patient to remember and develop routines. Particularly if your loved one has recently moved from their previous living quarters into a nursing home, it is not uncommon for him or her to react with confusion, anger and high amounts of stress. This exacerbates sundowning.
Sticking to the same schedule each day can help promote calm in your loved one. It is always better to adjust routines in small increments if and only if you absolutely must adjust them.
Keep the lights on
Sometimes, sundowning occurs because of changes to your loved one’s circadian rhythms. According to some studies, light therapy can help reduce the amount of confusion and agitation persons with dementia experience.
You may wish to consider purchasing your loved one a full spectrum light therapy lamp. Exposing your loved one to this light for one or two hours in the morning can help reduce sundowning. Another option is to try turning up the lights whenever your loved one starts exhibiting confusion or agitation.