Late afternoon and early evening can be a difficult time of day for people living with dementia. They might be restless, irritable, and more confused. This is commonly called “sundowning” (or Sundowners Syndrome) and while it is a well-known occurrence, we do not know exactly why it happens.
It is likely a combination of factors that result in a “perfect storm” at the end of the day. This is a transitional time for all ages: babies get fussy, adults have “happy hour”. As the sun goes down, people are getting tired and overwhelmed. If we have been working, we look forward to going home. It is logical that it would be a hard time of day for people with dementia. As always, the first step is to make sure their needs are met. Do they have pain from being active all day? Do they need a snack or a beverage? Is the environment too hectic? Offer a quiet time and peaceful activity: music, looking out the window, watching a movie or reading a magazine. Keep a routine, making sure they are getting enough exercise and sunlight by day. As evening sets in, close the curtains and turn on the inside lights to avoid disturbing shadows. Avoid too much stimulation, or caffeine, before bed.
Learn more about Sundowning with this St. John’s Caregiver Resource