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How to Cope With Dementia Sundowning and Sleep Issues

Dementia is a progressive brain disorder that affects memory, thinking, behavior, and performing everyday activities. One common symptom of dementia is called “sundowning”. Sundowning can cause increased confusion, anxiety, and agitation in those with the disease.


Common Challenges Faced When Caring for a Loved One With Dementia Sundowning and Sleep Issues

It can be difficult enough to deal with the everyday challenges of caring for someone with dementia. Still, when they start to experience problems with sleeping and Sundowning Syndrome takes hold, it can feel like you are constantly fighting a losing battle. As a family caregiver, you will likely face a range of different challenges if you are caring for someone affected by sundowning and sleep issues. Some of the most common include:

  • Frustration – feeling frustrated because you feel like you are battling against symptoms that seem to come out of nowhere can be very draining.
  • Exhaustion – looking after someone with dementia often requires a lot of patience and energy, and when they start to have problems with sleeping, it can be tough to keep going.
  • Anxiety – constantly living in fear that your loved one will wander off or become agitated can take its toll.
  • Isolation – feeling like you are the only person who understands what you are going through, can make you feel alone.

Tips for Dealing With Dementia Sundowning and Sleep Issues

When caring for someone with dementia, it is essential to remember that you are not alone. Many people can offer support and advice, and here are some tips that might help you to cope with sundowning and sleep issues:


Sufficient Rest to Solve Dementia Sundowning

Try to get as much rest as possible yourself. This can be difficult when you are constantly on duty, but it is essential to take some time for yourself; otherwise, you will quickly become exhausted.


Create a Routine

Having a routine can help ease the confusion and anxiety that often comes with sundowning. Keeping mealtimes, bedtimes, and activities as regular as possible can help your loved one feel more secure.


Adapt Your Schedule

If the person you are caring for sleeps during the day, try to adapt your schedule so that they can sleep at night. This will help avoid disruption to their routine and make them feel more comfortable.


Encourage Exercise

Physical activity can help ease agitation and anxiety, so try to encourage your loved one to be as active as possible. This might mean taking a walk or joining in with some simple exercises that you can do together.


Identify Triggers of Dementia Sundowning

It is vital to try and identify any triggers that might cause your loved one to become agitated or anxious. This cannot be easy, but with time and patience, you might be able to work out what sets them off.


Enough Lighting

Ensure that the home is well lit, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime. This can help to reduce feelings of anxiety and agitation.


Keep a Log

It can be helpful to keep a log of the symptoms that your loved one experiences and note down what seems to help or make them worse. This can be beneficial information that you can discuss and share with the doctor.


Seek Support

There is no shame in admitting that you struggle and seeking help from professionals or support groups. By doing so, you will be able to take off some of the strain and have a way of venting out when things seem overwhelming. Elite Choice has support groups with others in a similar situation family caregiving. This is a a great way to interact with others who understand your situation and a safe place to release strong feelings.


Learn More About Dementia Sundowning 

Dealing with dementia sundowning and sleep issues can be challenging, but you don't have to face them alone. Various organizations can offer support and advice, so don't hesitate to reach out for help.


Learn more about caring for your loved one and Elite Choice

Elite Choice, is a fiscal intermediary for CDPAP, supporting at-home caregivers and their loved ones so that being cared for in your own home is a blessing for everyone. We are proud to have resources available to help support caregivers. Have any questions? Call us today and we will be glad to help! 

Written by: Leah Ganz
Director of Patient Services

Leah Ganz, RN, BSN is the Director of Patient Services at Elite Home Health Care. She has an extensive background in homecare and previously worked in various specialties including pediatrics, pain management and internal medicine. She oversees all patient services across Elite's departments.