Alzheimer’s jargon: What is sundowning?

May 21, 18 Alzheimer’s jargon: What is sundowning?


Most people see the sunset as beautiful reminder that the work day has ended. Sunsets are seen as a time to reflect and appreciate another day on this earth with family and friends. However, for aging individuals with Alzheimer’s the late afternoon can be a time of increased struggle. In the late afternoons, Alzhiemer’s and elderly dementia can bring with it “agitation, confusion, anxiety, and aggressiveness” that can lead well into the evening or night (Khachiyants, Trinkle, Son, Kim).

But why?

Researchers believe that the increased symptoms in the afternoon is in some way related to our natural circadian rhythm. What’s circadian rhythm? Well, its our internal clock that tells us when to sleep and when to be awake. Lump in the environment, the decrease in cognitive abilities and we have a situation that causes Alzheimer’s and dementia symptoms to spike as the body settles down to process all the feedback and stimuli we’ve received all day. But, researchers are still not sure why this spike happens.

What can I do to help

Of course your first step is to check with your physician to discuss a plan to care for yourself or an elderly family member with alzheimers experiencing sundowning symptoms. AARP suggests a few general tips to offer support like playing soothing music and adjusting light exposure.

Where can I find out more?

Mayo Clinic and AARP both have very informative articles about sundowning.

What are your experiences?

Share with us. Contact us about sharing your experience with sundowning in a SETH TALK.

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External Resources

Administration for Community Living

Pathfinders for Autism

Disability Scoop

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

National Center for PTSD

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