The Challenges of Sundowner’s Syndrome

The Challenges of Sundowner’s Syndrome

Sundowning is a neurological phenomenon associated with increased confusion and restlessness common in aging adults and those with Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

It can manifest in various concerning behaviours, including anxiety, aggression, paranoia, hallucinations, shouting, inability to follow directions, pacing, or wandering.

The exact cause isn’t known, and it is impossible to predict whether your senior will be affected by it.

There are several avoidable factors which can exacerbate the condition:

• being fatigued

• low lighting

• shadows

• schedule change

Your loved one may act combative, aggressive, and angry, and it is important to remember these emotions are based on a fear response. These reactions are not rational, but their feelings are real to them. Your empathy is vital towards restoring calm and reassuring them and can go a long way toward helping control the frustrated reactions during this time.

Sundowning doesn’t respond well to medications or medical interventions. The side effects may trigger confusion or aggravation for your loved one's. What confuses them now may not be what exacerbates them in the future.

Promyse Home Care, Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge

Sundowner’s or delirium?

The symptoms of Sundowner’s and Delirium are similar; however, they are very different. Delirium can start suddenly and doesn’t necessarily occur at specific times. Sundowner’s can creep up as dementia progresses and often is more pronounced in the afternoon and evening.

Some causes of delirium include:

• Urinary tract infection

• Stroke

• Low blood sugar

• Drug interactions

• Head injury

• Carbon monoxide

• Lung or heart problems

Holistic ways to reduce the challenges of sundowning:

• Maintain an expected schedule, especially in the afternoon and evening.

• Increase the amount of daylight for your loved one.

• Limit afternoon napping.

• Reduce caffeine, sugar, and liquid in the afternoon.

• Turn on lights at sundown and close curtains.

• At night, reduce activity, including TV.

• If their confusion starts when people are preparing dinner, move them to a quieter place.

• Playing soft music and sounds of nature.

• Going for an evening stroll.

• Put a night light in the room where they sleep.

• Avoid restraining your loved ones or arguing with them if they are agitated. Reassurance will help calm them.

Sometimes the best solution is a distraction.

Promyse Home Care, Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge

Offer your senior a favourite snack, beloved object, or change in activity. Simple tasks such as folding laundry can be used to distract and involve their brain in a less reactive way. Since Sundowner’s does not follow a predictable pattern, pay attention to potential triggers. Understanding your loved one’s triggers can help you gift them with the internal tools to handle their own feelings of frustration and confusion.

We are Here to Help

The team at Promyse offers social companionship, assistance, and supervision to seniors who need someone to keep them company. Whether you or your loved ones live at home, in a retirement home, in a long-term care facility, or are staying in hospital or hospice care, our caring team can be there.


Contact us today to find out more about our companion services for yourself or your loved ones. 519.208.2000 Promyse Home Care