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Tips for reducing dementia sundowning symptoms

Updated: Jan 7, 2023

One of the challenges that caregivers of loved ones with dementia often face is the phenomenon known as sundowning, which refers to a worsening of symptoms in the late afternoon and evening.

Sundowning can cause confusion, agitation, and difficulty sleeping.

Sundowning can be distressing for both the person with dementia and their caregiver, and it is important to find ways to prevent or manage these symptoms.

There are several potential causes of sundowning, including changes in the body's internal clock, fatigue, and confusion in unfamiliar environments. However, it is important to note that not all people with dementia experience sundowning, and the severity of symptoms can vary from person to person.

Maintain a consistent daily routine

One way to minimise the symptoms of sundowning is to maintain a consistent daily routine. This can include regular meal times, activities, and sleep patterns.

It is also helpful to provide plenty of natural light during the day and reduce exposure to bright lights in the evening, as this can help regulate the body's internal clock.

Another important factor is ensuring that the person with dementia is getting enough physical activity and social interaction during the day. This can help reduce fatigue and promote better sleep at night.

Engaging in activities that the person enjoys, such as gardening, can be particularly beneficial.

Create a calm and familiar environment

It is also important to create a calm and familiar environment for the person with dementia. This can include minimiSing distractions and clutter, and keeping a consistent layout of furniture and objects in the home.

If the person with dementia becomes agitated or confused in unfamiliar settings, it may be helpful to limit outings or visits to new places.

If the person with dementia becomes agitated or aggressive during sundowning episodes, it is important to remain calm and avoid confrontation.

Instead, try redirecting the person's attention to a different activity or providing a soothing environment, such as listening to music or offering a warm beverage. It may also be helpful to enlist the support of a trained professional, such as a therapist or social worker, to develop strategies for managing these behaviors.

Create a comfortable sleep environment

This includes using a comfortable mattress and pillows, keeping the room at a cool temperature, and using a white noise machine to block out any external noises.

Consider medications

Medications can also be used to manage sundowning symptoms, but it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting or altering any medications.

Some medications, such as sedatives or anti-anxiety drugs, can have side effects and may not be appropriate for everyone.

It is also important for caregivers to take care of themselves and seek support from friends, family, and professional resources.

Caregiving can be a physically and emotionally demanding role, and it is important to prioritize self-care and seek support when needed.

In summary, there are several strategies that can help prevent or manage sundowning symptoms in people with dementia.

These include maintaining a consistent daily routine, providing plenty of natural light and physical activity during the day, creating a calm and familiar environment, and seeking professional support as needed.

Caregivers should also prioritise their own self-care and seek support from friends, family, and professional resources.

By implementing these strategies, it is possible to improve quality of life for both the person with dementia and their caregiver.

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The Adaptive Clothing Australia Team


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