Ask an Angel: March 9, 2017

Our Ask An Angel correspondent is Arlene Petersen, Life Care Navigation Specialist in the area of senior home care.

Q. My father has dementia and I’ve noticed that he gets more confused and agitated in the evening. His sleep has also been affected. Why does he change so drastically?

A. The evenings can cause much confusion and agitation and there is a name for it called Sundowning. Sundowning usually occurs in the late afternoon and continues to the evening hours and sometimes continuing during the night. Those affected by it may see loved ones experiencing agitation, confusion or increased anxiety during this time of day. Some studies indicate that these changes happen due to the internal clock and this change brings disruption to the body’s ability to have a “normal” cycle. There is also evidence that loved one’s experience irritability as they try to process information throughout the day. When caring for someone with dementia and the signs of Sundowning, it is important to try to keep to a schedule to help reduce any type of agitation. Light therapy is also something you might want to discuss with your doctor as this may be an avenue of help. Keeping your father active during the day is also important. Sleeping during the day can make him restless during the evening, so again, we are talking about a scheduled day filled with a common routine. Speak with your doctor to talk about other options. Understanding the various aspects of dementia is your best prescription.

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