If you are a Michigan caregiver helping to provide for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease, you may be witnessing this behavior and not know what it is. As the sun begins to set, restlessness, agitation and anxiety in a loved one peak. Just as a caregiver’s energy level is at its lowest, your loved one’s pacing and wandering begin. Sundowners Syndrome, also referred to as sundowning, is one of the most challenging behaviors for caregivers to manage. Estimates from The Alzheimer’s Association are that about 20 – 25% of those living with Alzheimer’s disease will experience sundowning.
How can families keep a loved one with sundowning safe?
One of the difficulties in managing this behavior is that the cause remains elusive. Alzheimer’s experts believe it is somehow tied to a disruption in sleep patterns. But there are some tactics that are commonly believed to help minimize the symptoms:
- Plan your activity for each day in advance. Try to concentrate appointments and other activities that might be over-stimulating for early in the day.
- Keep afternoons more low key including the noise level from the television or radio. Also consider limiting caffeine and sugar intake in the afternoon.
- Consider taking a peaceful stroll around the neighborhood each day well before the sun begins to set. It will be good for you and for your loved one!
- Some experts believe sundowning may be the result of unexpressed needs such as hunger, thirst or the need to use the restroom. So be sure your loved one has enough to eat and drink throughout the day and that you show them to the rest room at least every few hours.
- This behavior often creates frustration for weary caregivers. But it is important not to lose your temper. Speak in a low voice and try to remain calm to avoid making the situation worse.
- Pull the curtains and blinds well in advance of it becoming dark outside. Turn on all of the lights. This may help prevent your loved one from experiencing the anxiety that seems to be linked to dusky skies.
- Consider the use of respite services a few times a month so you aren’t too tired to cope.
If you’d like to learn more about strategies for coping with Sundowners Syndrome, you can visit The Alzheimer’s Association Sleep Issues and Sundowning.
Is your loved one experiencing sundowning?
Have you found any approach that helps make it easier for them?