Caring for a family member with dementia can be an overwhelming and challenging experience. In addition to requiring daily care and engagement, you may have noticed that your family member becomes more irritable and confused during the late afternoon. This isn’t just a coincidence; sundowning is a phenomenon that affects many individuals with dementia and memory conditions when the day becomes evening.
Symptoms of sundowning occur as daylight begins to fade and can be difficult for family caregivers to manage.
HarborChase of Sarasota offers professional memory care services that focus on managing all symptoms and challenges associated with memory loss, including sundowning. We’re sharing some information on what sundowning is, why it occurs, and how memory care at HarborChase of Sarasota can help.
What is Sundowning?
Sundowning is a group of symptoms that impacts individuals with dementia or other memory impairments, like Alzheimer’s disease. These symptoms can begin at dusk or late afternoon and can sometimes continue through the night. Someone with sundowning symptoms may experience:
- Increased confusion
- Agitation and irritability
- Restlessness, resulting in pacing or wandering
- Trouble sleeping
While experts don’t know the exact cause of sundowning, some believe that memory impairments can impact the body’s “internal clock,” leading to physiological confusion between night and day. They also believe that external factors could contribute to sundowning symptoms. Things like boredom, overstimulation, pain, hunger or thirst, and even low lighting and shadows can intensify feelings of confusion and agitation.
Coping with Sundowning
While you may not be able to fully prevent it, you can use several strategies to help manage symptoms of sundowning in someone with memory loss. Above all else, you should always be calm, patient, and well-rested yourself. If you lose your patience with your family member, it could intensify their symptoms. Other ways to manage sundowning include:
- Establish a daily routine of waking up, eating, activities, rest time, and sleeping.
- When it becomes late afternoon and the sun is about to set, create a quiet and comfortable environment. Play soft music, go for a walk, or make a cup of tea. Avoid unnecessary stimulants such as the TV or other people in the room.
- Plan engaging activities during the day so your family member is tired in the evening, but avoid afternoon naps, if possible.
- Encourage open communication during times of frustration. Listen to your family member’s needs and concerns and try to calmly and respectfully reassure them.
How Memory Care at HarborChase of Sarasota Can Help
As much as you want to care for your family member, sometimes sundowning and other problematic behaviors can become too much for you to manage on your own. In these situations, it could be time to consider a dementia care community.
At HarborChase of Sarasota, our unique memory care program, The Cove, offers daily support and engagement to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias. Our compassionate care associates are well-versed in managing sundowning behaviors and other challenges linked to memory loss.
The Cove focuses on creating an environment conducive to preventing symptoms of sundowning:
- Daily routines
- Comfortable and intimate atmosphere
- Physical and mentally stimulating activities
- Nutritious meals that restore instead of stimulate
We schedule each day intentionally so that the mornings are full of engagement and stimulation while the evenings focus on winding down and relaxing, with soft music and evening strolls incorporated into the schedule.
You’re Not Alone
Coping with sundowning behavior on your own can be challenging and frustrating. As your family member becomes more exhausted and irritable, it can be easy for you to mimic their feelings and lose your patience. You may feel helpless, not knowing the best way to tend to them and calm them down.
Our memory care program in Sarasota, Florida, gives families peace of mind that their parent or loved one is in good hands, receiving the care and attention that they require and deserve. With more resources, staff, and solutions available than an individual caregiver may have at home, our Sarasota memory care community is an ideal environment for managing and coping with sundowning behaviors.
If you’ve been caring for a parent or family member with dementia and need additional support, it could be time to consider a memory care community. Memory care at HarborChase of Sarasota is designed to enhance the overall quality of life for individuals with memory loss, all while giving their families much-needed peace of mind. Contact our memory care team to see how we can help you and your family.