The behaviors associated with sundowning dementia are challenging for family members and professional caregivers. While these behaviors vary from person to person, they tend to increase during the late afternoon and early evening. Many factors contribute to increased agitation during this time. Reduced lighting, for example, can cause confusion and inability to see objects. Keeping a calm and steady spirit may help caregivers and loved ones cope with this difficult time.
To help your loved one cope with sundowning, try using soothing techniques. You can try talking slowly and asking them what is bothering them. You can also give them a quiet activity to do. These techniques may help them feel less anxious and confused. The key is to keep their surroundings as familiar as possible.
Although sundowning behaviors are common in dementia, the cause is not known. Experts believe it may be linked to disturbances in a person’s circadian rhythm. Other possible causes include medications and stimuli. Disrupted daytime routines can also contribute to sundowning. Some researchers believe that these behaviors may be a way for a person with dementia to communicate an unmet need. Verbal communication skills tend to diminish as dementia progresses, so behaviors become the primary form of communication.
While sundowning dementia is not curable, it can be managed with the right techniques. Medications are often used as a last resort and should be used only when other non-pharmaceutical options have failed. A caregiver should try to find out what the trigger is so that he or she can address the issue. In the meantime, caregivers should try to reduce noise, clutter, and crowded environments.