Sundowner’s Syndrome, or sundowning, is when a dementia patient becomes more fearful, agitated, or depressed around sunset. At this time of day, caregivers will notice that their loved one’s illness becomes even worse as they become more confused, anxious, and have trouble communicating.
Though these episodes can be difficult to deal with, there are a number of things that you can do to lessen their effects.
1. Be calm and try not to startle your loved one. Avoid yelling or challenging them. If mom says something that doesn’t make sense at dinner, it might be a good time to let the bizarre statement go.
2. Keep the curtains drawn, so that your loved one doesn’t notice that it’s getting dark outside. Turn on the lights and try to make the inside atmosphere bright, peaceful, and cheerful. Ask others to keep the noise down.
3. Make sure that your loved one is active during the day, so that they’ll be tired in the evening. If they’re napping or sitting around, they’ll be more wakeful at night.
4. It’s a good idea to plan activities in the evening as well that can serve as a distraction.
5. Stick to a routine, as this will make your loved on less anxious. Even simple actions, like going to bed at the same time each night or watching TV together can help create a sense of familiarity.
6. Try playing soothing music, which can have a remarkable effect on creating a calm atmosphere.
7. Have locks or other safety devices installed, so that you don’t need to worry about your loved one wandering and hurting themselves. You might consider making a safe area where they can move around even when you’re not awake to keep an eye on them.
8. Ask your loved one where they would prefer to sleep. If it’s on the recliner in the living room or in a different bedroom, changing sleeping arrangements to accommodate them might help. Being comfortable will help ease their anxiety.
9. Buy nightlights to use in your loved one’s room or other areas, as lessening the darkness will make them less nervous.
10. Be reassuring. Sometimes it will help your loved one just to hear from you that everything is OK.
The evening doesn’t have to be an unpleasant time for you or your loved one. The simple changes above can help the night pass more smoothly for both of you.