How to Manage Sundown Syndrome?

There are so many facets of Alzheimer’s that can be draining for both the patient and the caregiver.  At dusk or during the early hours of the evening, an individual with Alzheimer’s disease may experience an increase in anxiety, agitation, and disorientation.  These episodes are referred to as sundowning or as Sundown Syndrome.  Unfortunately, the episodes may occur daily and last for a few hours or throughout the night.  Research shows that up to 25% of Alzheimer’s sufferers will suffer episodes of sundowning.

What causes the Sundown Syndrome?

The exact cause of Sundown is still unknown.  However, mental and physical fatigue play a role as well as a change in seasons where there is a change in the day from light to dark.   Alzheimer patients may have difficulty with their sleep at times and this can also contribute to their disorientation.

How can a caregiver manage Sundown Syndrome?

>Monitor the diet.  Avoid sugars and caffeine after the morning hours.  An early dinner accompanied by a light bedtime snack may also be beneficial.

>Tasks that are challenging should be done early in the day when the patient is not as agitated.  Daily socialization or group activities also ease the symptoms of early evening agitation and anxiety.

>Implement activities that are relaxing such as soft music, hand massage with lavender, warm milk, or decaffeinated herbal tea.

>Make sure the house room is well lit.  Close drapes or blinds prior to dusk.

>Avoid moving the Alzheimer’s patient if he or she falls asleep on the sofa or chair.  In addition, do not wake the person up for bed!

>Daily exercise and movement is a great distraction.  Physical activities also promote healthy sleep habits.

As caregivers, we are not alone in the journey of taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s

For a great resource for Alzheimer’s, log on to:  In addition, The 36-Hour Day:  A Family Guide to Caring for Persons with Alzheimer’s Disease by Nancy L. Mace.


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I am passionate about sharing senior citizen news and resources discovered from both my profession and personal journey.

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