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Sundown syndrome and restlessness

Restlessness and Sundowning: 7 Tips from Our Anthem Communities

We all know “dusk” or “twilight time”, as that time of day when the waning sunlight impairs our ability to see clearly without lighting.

Most of us simply turn the lights on and go about our evening. But, for individuals with dementia, the transition is not so easily shrugged off, especially if they are already tired or irritable. The increasing shadows and lack of natural light can cause confusion, triggering anxiety, fear and even aggression. And, when it continues into the evening it can impair their ability to get a good night’s sleep.

Our Anthem Memory Care caregivers are well aware of this phenomenon known as “sundowning”. They understand the disorientation that can arise, especially as we transition from daylight-saving time to standard time. They also understand the importance of treating individuals experiencing restlessness and symptoms of sundowning with dignity and respect.

For those of you who are family caregivers for loved ones with dementia, here are seven tips to make the transition easier, courtesy of our Anthem communities:

  1. Keep your loved one active during the day. Increase activities during the day and include some physical activity.
  2. Discourage inactivity. Long periods of inactivity, such as long naps during the day can result in greater restlessness in evening hours.
  3. Reduce or eliminate sugar, caffeine, and junk food. Instead, provide small, portioned healthy meals during the day. Before bedtime, serve a light meal, such as a half sandwich.
  4. Make early evening a quiet time of the day. Keep the environment during late afternoon and evening as quiet and calm as possible. Try engaging them in structured, quiet activities.
  5. Adjust lighting. Turn on lights well before sunset and close the blinds to minimize shadows and help reduce confusion.
  6. Minimize confusion at night. Put a nightlight in the bedroom, hallway, and bathroom.
  7. Make sure you, as caregiver, get enough sleep. Your own health is important! If nighttime activity keeps you awake, ask a trusted relative, friend, or caregiver to help out so that you can get a good night’s sleep yourself.

The anxiety your loved one experiences as late afternoon transitions into evening can seriously impair their quality of life. However, with some planning and patience, you can do much to minimize the conditions that serve as unwelcome triggers and create a more peaceful environment for everyone.