The Alzheimer’s Association indicates that close to 20 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease will experience what is often referred to as “sun downing.”
This behavior often presents itself through an increase in anxiety and agitation that usually begins late in the day. It can also lead to pacing and wandering. In reviewing some of the literature it appears that there is no specific cause of the late day change in behavior. However some factors that may exacerbate this unsettled behavior include the consequences of disrupted sleep patterns, namely fatigue and day/night confusion. Dusk results in reduced lighting and increased shadows that can be quite disorienting. As well, thinking that someone or something is present when not can be quite frightening.
While there are some medications to help to treat the discomfort associated with sun downing, there is, fortunately, increasing research pointing to additional options to help manage symptoms. During the past few years, the medical and non-medical health care professionals involved in care decisions have discovered that a number of non-medication interventions may be very effective and helpful without the risk of medication side-effects.
It can be beneficial to watch for triggers that may contribute unsettled behaviors. For example, might mom or dad be hungry, have some pain or discomfort, need to use the bathroom or be troubled by being in a poorly lit room? Many health-care professionals recommend trying to limit daytime naps and late-day caffeine along with a doing one’s best to follow a daily routine. Many people with dementia prefer a calm environment with minimal distractions. Therefore if a loved one seems uncomfortable, then it may help to as best able, help to redirect him or her and or change the environment such as switching the phone to silent, turn off the television along with keeping the multitasking to a minimum.
Some other suggestions to help minimize feelings of agitation might include a gentle hand massage, spending time with a pet, listening to a playlist of familiar songs, looking through photo albums, spending time outside or planting flowers. Engaging in a familiar activity with a loved one or a small group may also prove to be enjoyable. When preferred, participation in a group activity of the individual’s personal interest can evoke pleasant memories along with providing them with a huge plus, most specifically, the opportunity to socially interact with others.
For more information on Alzheimer's care, contact Spring Arbor.