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Older gentleman with his adult daughter

Surviving Sundowning

by Jewish Community Services

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 55 million people worldwide living with 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.

 If someone special in your life has Dementia, JCS offers programs to support you and your loved one.

 Care Partner Conversations: When Your Loved One Has Dementia is a virtual group offering conversation, support, resources, and education for those who care for a loved one with dementia.
1st and 3rd Mondays each month
10:00 – 11:30 am via Zoom

JCS Memory Café provides an opportunity for those with memory impairment and their care partners to participate together in meeting new friends and enjoying refreshments, conversation, and engaging activities.
3rd Tuesday each month
2:00 pm at the Baltimore County Public Library Pikesville Branch

Jewish Community Services (JCS) provides programs and services for people of all ages and backgrounds, helping them achieve their goals, enhance their wellbeing, and maximize their independence.  To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or 410-466-9200.

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