Helping Your Assisted Living Loved One with Sundowners

Posted on: March 5th, 2018 by hhmin

sundowners in assisted livingAround 40 million people in America each year suffer from sleep disorders. Some sleep disorders can occur in the elderly with mental disorders like depression, dementia, or Alzheimer’s. One sleep disorder that science is still grasping to understand in the elderly is sundowners. Here is some important information on what it is, the symptoms to look out for, its triggers, and some ways to mitigate the problem with your loved one in assisted living.

What Is Sundowners?

Sundowners syndrome, or “sundowning,” is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Another reference to the syndrome by name is “late-day confusion.”

The term sundowners is a term that describes patterns of behavior problems that onset in the late afternoon and early evening. Aside from Alzheimer’s disease, this syndrome is also sometimes found in older people recovering from surgery. Someone exhibiting the symptoms of this syndrome may frighten loved ones experiencing this for the first time. That is why it is important to understand the symptoms of sundowners.


When your loved one is sundowning, some of the symptoms that you may notice include:

  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Irritable
  • Disoriented
  • Suspicious
  • Demanding
  • Pacing
  • Hearing or Seeing Things That Aren’t There
  • Mood Swings

It is known that 1 out of 5 people with Alzheimer’s are susceptible to sundown syndrome.

What Triggers Sundowners?

Sundowners is probably the most direct name that could be given for this illness. Scientists believe that changes in the brain of someone that has dementia or Alzheimer’s is what triggers sundowners in people. These brain changes impact a person’s inner body clock and they become unable to properly determine when they need to be awake or sleep.

Some common triggers for the syndrome are:

  • Less light in the house
  • Being unable to separate dreams from reality

What Are Some Ways to Soothe Symptoms?

There are several ways to help your loved one in a retirement home deal with life and sundowners. Some basic approaches include:

  • Encouraging exercise to expend energy
  • Limit caffeine intake
  • Plan family activities during the day so that the transition to the evening is easier
  • Create a private spot where your loved one can relax
  • Calm them with music or other therapeutic sounds
  • Consult with their doctor about medications that support those with the syndrome

Another key approach to easing sundowning is to regulate your loved one’s sleep. Knowing his or her routine will help you to understand when sundowners usually sets in for him or her. Once you understand his or her sleep cycle, you will be able to prevent excessive napping and help your loved one sleep through the night.

Holly Hall Offers Skilled Nursing at Our Facility that Helps with Sundowners

If you or your loved one are considering a move to our Christian retirement community, but are concerned with the onset of sundowners, you have nothing to worry about. The professional nursing staff at Holly Hall has the experience and capabilities to handle sundowners and other medical conditions that make senior living difficult at home. Get in touch with us today to arrange a tour and find out more about our assisted living community.