How to Manage Sundowning in the Elderly

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Sundowning, also known as sundown syndrome, is a condition that affects many seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The term refers to a state of confusion that begins later in the day as the sun goes down and may continue into the evening hours. While researchers aren’t exactly sure of the cause, many believe the dwindling light interrupts circadian rhythm, which is responsible for the body’s sleeping and waking hours. Manage your senior loved one’s sundowning with the following tips. 

Plan Daytime Activities 

Many seniors who don’t sleep well at night take naps during the day. Taking naps can interrupt your loved one’s circadian rhythm further, increasing the symptoms of sundowning and making it difficult to fall asleep the next night. Keeping your loved one’s daytime hours full of activity can help. Make a schedule that includes exercise, social time with friends or family, and time to enjoy hobbies. If your loved one can stay awake for longer periods during the day, the evening hours will become better. 

Regulating an older adult’s sleep schedule can be challenging. For some families, caring for a senior loved one can be overwhelming at times. Luckily, they can rely on professional respite care. Centennial, CO, Home Care Assistance is a trusted name in respite and hourly care. Our caregivers are available around the clock to assist seniors with bathing, transportation, medication reminders, exercise, and much more, allowing families the time they need to focus on other important responsibilities or just take a break.

Limit Electronics in the Evening 

Televisions, computers, and cell phones all emit blue light. These small light particles pass through the retina and into the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for sleep, and cause the release of the sleep hormone melatonin to be delayed, increasing the chance of daytime naps and confusion. Encourage your loved one to use electronics during the day and to stop using them during the evening and nighttime hours. If your loved one has a television in the bedroom, encourage him or her to move it to a central room or to not use it. 

Remove Causes of Confusion 

Some researchers believe sundowning occurs because lower amounts of light cause optical changes and an increase in shadows, which can cause confusion, anxiety, and stress. Talk with your loved one about things that are confusing him or her in the home and remove them. For example, blackout curtains may be used to replace sheer curtains that allow outside lights and shadows to appear in your loved one’s home. 

Seniors can face a variety of age-related challenges. Though some families choose to take on the caregiving duties, there may come a time when they need a trusted Centennial home care provider. Families sometimes need respite from their duties so they can focus on their other responsibilities, and some seniors need around-the-clock assistance that their families are not able to provide. Home Care Assistance is here to help.

Limit Sugar and Caffeine 

Having sweet treats and caffeinated drinks in the evening hours could prevent your loved one from sleeping properly and make it difficult to relax and settle down in the evening. Encourage your loved one to change his or her diet and limit caffeine and sugar to the morning hours. 

Create a Relaxing Evening Routine

Make a routine in the evening to help your loved one relax. Playing soft music, having a light evening meal, serving herbal tea, going on a short walk, or playing a game together can all make evening hours more predictable and relaxing, helping your loved one wind down and get ready for sleep.

Although the causes of sundown syndrome are still being researched, a compassionate caregiver can ease the stress caused by the challenging symptoms of sundowning syndrome. In Centennial, senior care agencies can be a great boon to seniors. With the help of the caregivers at Home Care Assistance, your aging loved one can lead a happier and healthier life. We offer a revolutionary program called the Balanced Care Method, which encourages seniors to eat nutritious foods, exercise and socialize regularly, and focus on other lifestyle factors that increase life expectancy. To learn more about our revolutionary care programs, call us at 303.957.3100.