Dementia Care: Understanding Sundowning

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Dementia Care: Understanding Sundowning

Sundown syndrome is a collection of symptoms that is marked by increased agitation and confusion in dementia patients during the early evening hours. Although the behaviors associated with sundowning can be challenging for seniors and their caregivers, it can be helpful to understand why the condition occurs so that strategies can be implemented to ease the symptoms. Here is a guide to understanding sundowning along with some helpful tips for soothing dementia patients as the sun goes down.

Possible Causes

Research is still being conducted to identify the underlying cause of sundowning; however, it is currently believed that disruptions within a person’s brain may disrupt their circadian rhythms. This may be the result of changing chemicals within the brain that involves increasing levels of enzymes associated with anxiety in the evening hours. While the true cause of sundowning may be unknown, it is clear that pain, disruptive environments and certain medications can exacerbate the symptoms.

Symptoms of Sundowning

In addition to increased agitation and confusion, seniors may experience other symptoms when they are sundowning. These symptoms include behaviors such as forgetfulness, restlessness and increased delirium. As they struggle with these feelings, seniors may have difficulty falling asleep and are more prone to wander. Yelling and combative behavior can also occur if a senior becomes over frustrated. Do these symptoms describe the behaviors of your aging loved one? Click here for information about specialty dementia care in Centennial and learn how professional and highly trained home caregivers can help manage such symptoms.

Treating Symptoms

Treating sundown syndrome involves strategies designed to promote relaxation and lessen confusion during the evening hours. Keeping dementia patients active throughout the day can help them to feel tired at the end of the day. It is also important to offer calm reassurance as the symptoms peak. Sometimes, simply reminding the dementia patient what day and time it is can be calming. Light therapy and treatment of other medical conditions can also help to lessen symptoms.

Although the true causes of sundown syndrome are still being researched, it is well-known that compassionate care can help to lessen the stress caused during the evening hours by challenging symptoms such as confusion and agitation. By understanding why these symptoms occur, caregivers can help their senior loved one work through their confusion so they can stay as calm as possible as evening falls. Have other questions relating to dementia care? Visit our website at or contact a Care Manager directly at (303) 957-3100.


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