upset senior man Confusion is a common symptom of dementia, which often worsens in the late afternoon and early evening. You may have heard the term “sundowning” in relation to Alzheimer’s disease, the leading form of dementia. This syndrome is a state of confusion that occurs later in the day that can cause anxiety and aggressive behavior.

One in every 5 adults with Alzheimer’s disease will develop sundown syndrome, but it can also affect seniors who do not have this cognitive condition.

Possible causes of sundowning include a disrupted sleep cycle, depression, pain and boredom. If your loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, learn more about sundowning.

Early Signs

The first symptoms of sundowning may be subtle and difficult to detect. A senior may experience restlessness, irritability, disorientation or become more demanding, which also occur in dementia patients. As sundowning continues to progress, these signs can become more noticeable and consistent.

A few common symptoms of sundowning include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Discomfort
  • Fear
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Emotional outbursts

How to Cope with Sundowning

As a family member or caretaker, it may become difficult and frustrating to cope with a loved one’s sundowning. There are many ways to help reassure or distract the person to limit and reduce their symptoms.

If your loved one becomes agitated, try using a favorite food, activity or movie as a distraction. You can also suggest a small task like folding laundry or doing the dishes to keep their mind occupied.

As the late afternoon approaches, try minimizing noise and clutter to help prevent fear or discomfort. Close any blinds or curtains to keep the light manageable from the inside.

Ways to Prevent Sundowning

Several factors can make sundowning worse, including drinks with caffeine or alcohol and too much activity late in the day. There are a few strategies you can try to prevent sundowning:

  • During the day, expose your loved one to sunlight, whether sitting by a window or outdoors.
  • Recommend daily physical activity to keep the body and mind active.
  • Make sure your loved one gets enough sleep. Naps during the day can help!

For more information on dementia and resources to help your loved one cope, contact Avon Health Center today.