Surviving Sundowning

By JCS Staff

For some people, dusk can be a favorite time of day.   Work is over, you are home with your family and ready to enjoy that beautiful sunset.  But many of the 5-million people suffering with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia struggle when the sun goes down. They get agitated, anxious and confused in the late afternoon or early evening.  This condition is called Sundowning.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 5 patients with dementia will experience Sundowning.  It typically starts in people with mid-stage Dementia.  While doctors aren’t sure why it occurs, there are things they recommend that can help, according to Healthline.com:

  • Stick to a schedule.   Unfamiliar people and places can sometimes cause patients with dementia to feel scared or anxious.  Keeping a regular routine is helpful when possible.
  • Light up the house.  Make sure the home is well-lit in the evening. Adequate lighting can help cut down on confusion.
  • Stay active.  Take your loved ones for walks during the day as often as possible so that they will be tired out in the evening.  Since fatigue is a common trigger of Sundowning, getting quality sleep can reduce its effects.
  • Adjust eating patterns.  It’s often hard to fall asleep after eating a large meal or drinking caffeine or alcohol.  Make lunch the big meal of the day and try just eating a light meal or snack for dinner.
  • Limit stressful activities.  The noise and distraction associated with watching television can cause stress for patients with Dementia.  Plan calm activities like listening to soft music or snuggling with a beloved pet during afternoons and evenings.
  • Provide comfort and familiarity.  If your loved one has moved to a new facility, fill their living space with reminders of home.  Family photos and favorite mementos can help offer a sense of calm, especially in new surroundings.

With so many factors affecting Sundowning, the best way to identify them is by close observation.  Keep a journal of daily activities and behaviors, then look for triggers.  Once you know what situations cause a bad reaction, you can make an effort to avoid them.


JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland.  We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200. 


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