How to cope with sundown syndrome

How to cope with sundown syndrome


In a few weeks from now, we’ll be setting our clocks back and we’ll experience shorter days and longer nights. Even though there are a lot of things we can look forward to in these fall and winter seasons, such as pumpkin pie, comfy sweaters, and warm fireplaces, we have to be aware that daylight saving time poses a danger to older adults living with memory loss. Sundown syndrome is a condition that affects many seniors negatively even though you’ve never heard of it before. You may have to know certain things about sundown syndrome, in order to help your loved ones during these darker and colder months, such as:

What does sundown syndrome represent?

Sundown syndrome is also known as sundowning, is a state of disorientation, confusion or in some cases aggression that seniors living with memory loss experience. It happens most often during fall and winter when the days are shorter and daylight is scarce. People with memory loss usually follow a set routine – they wake up, eat, do certain activities and go to bed at the same time every day, but their internal clock gets disrupted when the days begin to change. For example, a sensor may be used to eating dinner when the sun is still up, but when days begin to change, it may be dark outside and they might be unaware of what time is it, feel disoriented or even not being capable of distinguishing reality and imagination.

Sundowing symptoms can happen at any time of day, even though they are less intense when it’s still light outside. Other common symptoms of this condition include paranoia, trouble sleeping, pacing and wandering. You can do a few things to ease your loved one’s agitation, even though sundown syndrome cannot be cured.

What can you do to help?

1. Talk to a doctor.

Sundowning often looks similar to other medical issues, such as having an undesirable reaction to a new medication. Underlying health problems such as a urinary tract infection can only make sundowning worse. Talk to a doctor in order to better understand with what you’re dealing with and confirm there aren’t any underlying causes apart from memory loss.

2. Stick to a routine.

Some people try to adjust the routines of their loved ones in order to incorporate more daylight and thus ease their symptoms, for example, they make dinnertime earlier while the sun is still up. But this agitates people suffering from sundowning even more. Instead, try to maintain an everyday routine.

3. Make sure the living space is bright

Instead of using dim lights, try using bright lights so your loved one doesn’t get confused about what time it is. Make sure you let enough light inside during the day, and when it’s nighttime place a night light in their bedroom, just in case if they wake up in the middle of the night.

4. Help them to get a good night sleep

Getting enough rest can help reduce their sundowning behaviors. Don’t serve caffeinated drinks late in the day, turn off the TV and other screens before bedtime and limit their sugar intake. You can also upgrade their bedding and play soothing music so they relax. Think about what helps you to sleep better and try doing the same for them.

5. Make sure they are safe

Pacing and wandering is a common behavior of people suffering from sundown syndrome. Take care of your loved one, and install a security system just in case if they try to leave their home alone at night. It may be extremely helpful if you use new caregiving technology to track where are they located at night.

We can Help! Our local advisors can help your family make a confident decision about senior living.

Call: 800-997-1342


Petar Jangelovski
Petar Jangelovski

Petar Jangelovski A former ESL teacher who enjoys reading books and going out with friends. Experienced and creative translator, and once upon a time a poet, who wrote Shakespearean-like sonnets.

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