How Memory Care Helps with Sundowning
Brian SheridanDec 12th, 2022
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is life-changing for families. They’re about to embark on a journey of new experiences and challenges that can be fraught with concerning behavioral changes. Some of these changes can include trouble sleeping at night or acting upset or agitated in the late afternoon or at dusk, often lasting long into the night. The person might also act confused, ignore directions, or start pacing or wandering.
These symptoms are often indicative of a state commonly known as sundowning. Sundowning usually peaks during the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease and diminishes as the disease progresses. Medical researchers haven’t drawn any conclusions as to why sundowning occurs, but it’s generally accepted that the symptoms happen due to dementia’s impact on the brain.
What are the signs of sundowning in someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia?
In most cases, people who are sundowning exhibit one or more of the below symptoms around dusk, often continuing into the night.
- Confusion, agitation, or anxiousness
- Changing their sleeping patterns
- Fidgeting during the night
- Pacing, wandering, or otherwise acting restless
- Seeing or hearing things that are not there
- Suspicion of people or surroundings
- Questioning reality and believing things that are not true
The disruption to the person’s usual sleeping-waking pattern due to sundowning may also result in behavioral problems during the day
What triggers sundowning symptoms?
The negative behavioral expressions and disturbed sleep patterns associated with sundowning can be caused by several different factors, including:
- Daytime napping, especially too close to the evening
- Over-exhaustion at the end of the day
- Boredom or a lack of routine during the day
- Confusion between daytime and nighttime caused by a disturbance to their internal body clock
- A reduced need for sleep, which is common in older adults
- Anxiety or fear caused by shadows in a low-light environment
- Disorientation, possibly from being unable to tell the difference between dreams and reality
Sundowning is a serious concern among families. However, it’s important to remember that the person is experiencing something beyond their control. The best way to respond to someone sundowning is with love, patience, and empathy, an approach that will help prevent further upset and keep your loved one, yourself, and others safe.
However, caring for someone who is sundowning or exhibiting other severe symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can become too challenging for the family. When the person needs 24-hour specialized support, Memory Care is the most prudent option for quality care as your loved one continues on their dementia journey.
How Memory Care helps residents who are sundowning
Placing your loved one in a Memory Care community gives them multiple opportunities for mental stimulation, progressive activities, and socialization in a safe environment created just for them.
Memory Care staff are specially trained to provide supportive, empathetic care that helps each resident have the best day possible, even if the person is showing signs of sundowning.
The team also takes proactive steps to prevent sundowning from occurring, which helps your loved one stay relaxed, calm, and comfortable. Some of the preventative strategies used by the Memory Care staff include:
- Opportunities to enjoy the sunshine which will help reset their internal clock
- Well-lit facilities and residences that reduce anxiety and help residents identify familiar people and objects
- Minimize daytime napping, especially close to the end of the day
- Ensure that their daily routines are consistent, enjoyable, and as stress-free as possible
- Integrate physical activities and exercise into their daily routine, but not too close to bedtime
- Keep evening activities light, such as listening to soothing music, reading, or having a pleasant conversation
- Avoid access to coffee, cola, or other caffeinated drinks late in the day
- Discourage the use of television, computers, or using other brightly-lit screens during periods of nighttime wakefulness to minimize overstimulation
- Close curtains or blinds at nightfall to reduce shadows that may cause confusion
Another important step taken by Memory Care staff is discovering any triggers that can cause sundowning. Once a trigger is identified, they will immediately address it before the situation escalates.
Placing an older loved one in Memory Care is a big step. However, it’s not a reflection of you as a caregiver. These communities were created to support families so they can focus less on caregiving duties and spend more time enjoying visits.
Families are always encouraged to visit as often as possible and participate in their relative's Memory Care program. After all, you’re part of the community too.
No-cost help finding quality Memory Care Communities in Northeast Florida
As your loved one continues their dementia journey, they will eventually need 24-hour support that requires specialized skills to successfully manage. Memory Care communities are the perfect solution where care needs exceed what families can provide
However, finding a quality Memory Care community can be overwhelming, especially if you’re doing it alone or for the first time.
That’s why families looking for Memory Care in Northeast Florida call Brian Sheridan of Assisted Living Locators. Brian and his team will take the time to get to know your elderly loved one’s needs, wants, and requirements and present a list of best-fit options that suit their lifestyle. With Brian on your side, you’ll have all the information you need to make the most informed decision possible.