Every day at the same time, your dad becomes overly confused and agitated. He gets aggressive and will not sit still. These are all key signs of sundowning, but why does it happen?
The reality is that there is no clear answer to why sundowning happens. Some people with dementia never experience it, and others do.
What Is Sundowning?
Sundowning is a collection of symptoms that happen at a specific time of day, usually when the sun is getting lower in the sky, hence the name “sun” and “downing” Symptoms begin to increase and include increasing confusion, agitation, anger, frustration, and refusal to cooperate. People with sundowning may also start fidgeting, wandering, and pacing.
What Causes Sundowning?
There isn’t a specific cause of sundowning, but some things can exacerbate it. If your dad is tired or hungry, he may become fussier and act up. Changes to room lighting can increase anxiety and comfort. It can also be triggered with the time change when days are shorter and nights are longer.
How Do You Stop the Anger and Moodiness?
Because many things increase the chances of it happening, it’s crucial to create a routine. Make sure your dad goes to bed at a particular hour and gets up at a specific time in the morning. If he wakes in the middle of the night, have a routine in mind that helps him get back to bed.
Talk to his doctor about medical issues that can make your dad more confused, irritable, and agitated. One of the biggest is a urinary tract infection. UTIs may lead to anger, irritation, and confusion in the elderly, which are not the signs you’d expect with a UTI.
Make sure your dad has a snack between lunch and dinner to avoid anger caused by a growling stomach. The other thing to do is make certain lights are turned on before the sun starts to set. Don’t let rooms become shadowy.
Pay attention to your dad’s mood swings and increased confusion, and note the time and circumstances. Were lights on in the house, or was it getting shadowy? Did something you say or do set him off?
Once you find patterns or have a timeframe to work with, make arrangements to have others supporting your dad during those hours. You may need to take a break at this time or to have an extra set of hands available from a home care aide.
Home care services help your dad with daily tasks and companionship. The service is also there to help you. Talk to a home care specialist about the benefits of respite care for family caregivers.
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