Help for Sundowning

Many Alzheimer’s patients experience a late afternoon or early evening change in personality. Called sundowning, a change in light seems to trigger a cognitive response that gets progressively worse as the hours of the day go on, but remedies itself by morning. Doctors are unsure of why it happens, but it’s more likely to happen if the patient hasn’t had enough sleep, is hungry or thirsty, in pain, or depressed. Typical symptoms of sundowning include feeling anxious or agitated, disorientated or confused, demanding, angry, restless, and even suspicious. Some patients may start to pace around, shout and yell, and see and hear things that aren’t there. There is no medication to control it but there are ways to try and minimize the effects. Some helpful methods to minimize sundowning follow: (1) Have a daily routine with regular times for waking up, meals, and going to sleep. (2) Schedule appointments, outings, visits and bath time in the earlier part of the day. (3) Limit or avoid things that affect sleep. (4) No alcohol or smoking; sweets and caffeine should be limited to the morning hours. (5) Big lunch; small and simple evening meal. (6) No nap or exercise within four hours of bedtime. (7) Have a calm, quiet and well lit environment with a comfortable temperature. (8) Have relaxing music; encourage reading, playing cards or walking to wind down. (9) Utilize a virtual reality headset that surrounds a patient with a peaceful setting.

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