Managing the Evening Stress of Sundowning

 In Caregiver Tips

By Emily Irving, MSSA

As we continue to move through the season of winter, there is less light outside during the evenings and it seems much later than it really is for most of us.  For a loved one with memory loss, this time of the day, when the sun goes down, can be very stressful.  Sundowning is a term used to describe a period in which a loved one with memory loss experiences increased confusion and agitation.   During this time, your loved one may start pacing in the home, refuse to participate in care or become argumentative.   This reaction occurs because your loved one is likely to be tired and somewhat confused by his/her lack of time awareness.  Here are some things you can do to make the evenings less stressful for everyone in the home:

-Turn the lights on in the afternoon, so there is a gradual change in home-lighting throughout the day.

-Try to keep your loved one active during the day, so bedtime is a much easier process.

-Keeping structure and routine in the home will help a loved one know what to expect next.

-Do not argue with your loved one; provide a positive tone and reassurance.

-Help your loved one keep track of time with large clocks and calendars.

-Keep medical appointments and visits to the mornings only, when your loved one may feel more comfortable.

-Expose your loved one to sunlight, when possible.

-Discourage afternoon naps.

-Keep stimulation in the home to a minimum.

The last suggestion is to remind yourself that you are an excellent caregiver.  Taking care of a loved one with memory loss is not an easy job.  We are here to help you.  Please call us anytime and we will be happy to help.