Evening hours can be especially challenging for those with Sundowner’s Syndrome. There are many hypotheses as to why this particular time of day is difficult—from being tired or bored—to natural circadian rhythms responding to the loss of sunlight. Even your loved one’s thoughts of dwelling on days gone by and how life has changed is enhanced as the day closes. No one truly knows why those with Alzheimer’s get particularly irritable at this time, let alone why people, in general, experience mood swings. But dealing with Sundowning can be frustrating.
Top Sundowner’s Tips for Caregivers
Here are a few tips to make life a little easier during those dusk hours:
- Encourage a little healthy (not exhausting) exercise during the day to get the senior’s endorphins going and blood flowing. This will promote a relaxing and low-key evening to help switch the body to end-of-day focus.
- Turn lights on in the rooms you and your loved ones will be occupying during the evening.
- Try to keep the Alzheimer’s patient engaged on something, whether it’s a specific task or focus like folding laundry, looking at pictures or playing a game. This helps to create new thought patterns.
- Select one are of a room to become a “quiet place” where there is a bright light and soothing music.
- If this time marks a particular trend in your loved one’s life, try to mimic what they may have done. From setting the table to preparing for dinner or reading the newspaper, these ‘normal’ life activities may be comforting.
- Only allow cat naps during the day of 20 minutes or less. Hours of sleeping can confuse the body’s circadian rhythms and keep the senior too awake at night.
- If your loved one paces at night, make sure there’s a clear path and accompany them—to let them know they’re not alone.
- If you sense your loved one is getting frustrated; hold his or her hand or put your hand on his or her back or knee. Sometimes a a soothing hand or shoulder massage can be comforting and can lesson any tension that may be building.
- Promote evening activities of positive interactions and memories. Whether it’s watching movies, listening to music, looking through family albums or calling loved ones.
- Maintain a comfortable temperature in the house.
- Talk to your doctor about medications that may help with Sundowner’s.
The key to this time of night is helping your loved one focus on things outside their own thought process, so they do not get upset. Making this time of day easier on them will, in turn, make it easier on you. Having the right balance of tasks, planning and comfort can help to reduce Sundowning.