How To Manage Late-Day Confusion With Older Adults


As a caregiver of someone living with Alzheimer’s Disease or any other form of dementia, you may be curious about sundowning. You may be wondering what sundowning is, what triggers sundowning or how you can properly manage the symptoms associated with sundowning.

In its simplest terms, sundowning is “late-day confusion.” While it’s referred to often as late-day confusion, sundowning can happen at any time during the day. It’s important to remember that sundowning is not a disease but rather a group of symptoms that may be exhibited at a certain time of the day by someone living with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

In this week’s blog we will be discussing some of the most common questions surrounding sundowning and how, as a caregiver, you can help manage these symptoms as they arise.

What Are The Most Common Symptoms Associated With Sundowning?

Sundowning symptoms often look different from one person to the next. People experiencing sundowning may exhibit one or two symptoms while others may exhibit a multitude of symptoms.

There are common sundowning symptoms that you can be on the lookout for as a caregiver or family member of someone living with dementia. Common sundowning dementia symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Pacing
  • Wandering
  • Intense distress
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Yelling

a person consoling an elderly person

What Triggers Sundowning Symptoms?

There are a variety of factors and combinations of factors that may trigger sundowning for an older adult living with dementia. These factors can change on a daily basis, so understanding the triggers can really help to stave off the severity of symptoms and help those living with dementia feel their best throughout the day and early evening. Common sundowning triggers include:

  • Being overly tired
  • Hunger and/or dehydration
  • Depression
  • Pain
  • Boredom
  • Low levels of Vitamin D
  • Overstimulation
  • Fading light in the evening
  • Darkness at night
  • Change of seasons
  • Weather / weather changes
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Hearing and/or vision impairment that’s gone unchecked
  • Fewer caregivers
  • Prescription drug side effects

While some of these triggers can only be addressed by a medical professional or visit to the doctor, many of them can be remedied by a caregiver. If you are caring for a loved one at home you may consider looking into the help of a professional assisted living program or memory care community where your loved one can be cared for by experts with Alzheimer’s and dementia training.

Managing Sundowning As A Caregiver

If you are caring for a loved one at home, there are a handful of simple and effective paths for properly managing sundowning symptoms before they arise.

Reduce Noise and Clutter

Too much stimulus can cause confusion, anxiety and agitation. This is true for those living with or without dementia. Reducing clutter and noise is a simple and effective way to stave off some of the symptoms associated with sundowning. If you’re looking for tips on how to reduce clutter, read our blog on reducing fall risk in the home

Play Relaxing Music

There is an abundance of research that suggests music helps alleviate stress and depression in seniors. In fact, listening to classical music can help ease anxieties, restlessness and frustration which are all common symptoms for those living with dementia. Manage sundowning with music therapy and you’ll be likely to see promising results. 

Promote Exercise

Exercise is a powerful tool for mitigating some of the symptoms associated with sundowning. It’s especially helpful for those who may have a hard time falling or staying asleep. If you’re curious about which exercises to try, check out our exercise fitness videos with Wellness Coach Elicia Stewart.  

Properly Manage Diet and Prescriptions

Ensuring that your loved one is staying hydrated, eating nutritious foods and following their prescription medication guidelines are critical components of managing sundowning symptoms. Manage sundowning by following these top nutrition tips for older adults. Empower your loved one with this guide on practical approaches to nutritional empowerment for older adults

If you’re considering talking to a loved one about senior living, there are a few approaches that you can take and some important things to consider. If you have some concern about your loved one’s ability to manage day-to-day tasks or you have concerns for their safety, it might be time to consider the assistance and care of a professional team.

At Prestige Care we have an entire team of professionals who’ve dedicated their lives to supporting those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. We welcome any questions that you may have. To get in touch with our team you can request a tour or consultation today.