Caring for a loved one with dementia can be a challenge. Dementia can cause people to display a lot of behaviours that can be difficult to manage. Sundowning is one such behaviour. In this guide, we will look at the causes of sundowning, share some ways to cope with it, and methods that can be used to prevent it.
Sundowning is a term used for changes in behaviour around dusk. It is common in individuals with mid- or late-stage dementia. Whilst dementia can cause changes in behaviour, sundowning specifically defines changes that occur in the evening. It tends to cause increased agitation and anxiety.
They may start thinking that it is time to go home, even though they are already there. Or they may start saying they need to pick up their children from school. If they feel unable to address the perceived cause of their anxiety, they may display other behaviours. These could include arguing, pacing, or forgetting who you are.
It is not the time of day alone that triggers sundowning. A disturbed sleep the night before, or a change of routine during the day, can result in sundowning behaviours. Some medications can result in increased confusion for individuals with dementia. Alternatively, certain medications wearing off can have the same effect.
When sundowning happens, it is important that you can support your loved one. They will feel confused and irritable. One of the best ways to support them is to distract them from the situation. Low energy activities may be best, especially if your loved one is tired. Something as simple as getting them a snack may help them to settle down.
It is also important to talk to them. Use a calm, level voice. By asking them what is wrong, you can find ways to put their mind at ease. Sometimes they may need the toilet or something to drink. Soothing music can also be an effective means of calming your loved one.
It is an old adage that prevention is better than cure. This remains true with sundowning. One of the most effective methods is to ensure your loved one sticks to a routine. They should wake up, have meals, and go to bed at the same times every day. Limiting caffeine during the day will make it easier to stick to these routines. It will also reduce the likelihood of restlessness in the evenings.
Doing things to make the transition into the evening easier will also help to prevent sundowning. Try closing the curtains before it starts to get dark and making sure the lights in the house are on and bright. Remember that they are likely to feel tired. All conversation should be concise and quiet. Too much sensory input may worsen their confusion.
Not every person with dementia will react in the same way. Everyone has different triggers. If your loved one is experiencing sundowning, try to identify their specific triggers. Making a list can be useful. You can then use your list to address the causes. This will make life easier for your loved one.
We know that caring for a loved one with dementia can be difficult. If you feel like you need some extra support, it may be worth considering a carer. Abing Homecare offers respite care services to give you some time to look after yourself. Your own well-being is just as important as that of your loved one.
By employing our domiciliary carers you can be confident that your loved one is being cared for whilst you are away. They can visit multiple times a day. Our prices start at just £19 per visit.
If you feel like you need longer-term support for your loved one, why not consider our live-in care services? A live-in carer makes day-to-day life easier for you and your loved one. Our carers offer a compassionate service and will set up a personalised plan specifically for your loved one.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on 20th October 2021 to reflect current information.