Dealing with "Sundowning" in an Elderly Loved One

If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease, you may be familiar with sundowning - restlessness, agitation, irritability, or confusion that can begin or worsen in the late afternoon or early evening for people with Alzheimer's.

Researchers aren't sure what causes sundowning, but being overly tired, in pain, or depressed may contribute to it. Alzheimer's-related brain changes may also confuse a person's sleep-wake cycles. Here are a few strategies that may help you cope with sundowning:

  • Make early evening a quiet time. Reduce noise, clutter, or the number of people in the room.
  • During the day, help the person with Alzheimer's go outside or sit by the window. Exposure to natural light may help reset their sleep-wake cycle. In the evening, close the curtains and turn on inside lights to minimize shadows.
  • Keep naps short and not too late in the day.
  • Help the person you are caring for get some physical activity or exercise each day. Too many activities may be tiring, however, and make sundowning worse.

Do not serve coffee, cola, or other drinks with caffeine late in the day. Do not serve alcohol since it can add to confusion and anxiety.

Read more tips for coping with sundowning.

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