Sundowning occurs near the time of day when the afternoon edges into the evening.
It’s a time when your senior may find that her dementia clouds her experiences and causes her to feel restless, confused, and upset for reasons she isn’t able to articulate. There are patterns to sundowning, though, and there may be triggers that make the situation worse for her.
Keep a Notebook
A notebook is a valuable resource for you as a family caregiver, no matter what’s going on. While you’re tracking issues related to sundowning, it’s a good idea to keep your notebook handy so that you can write down whatever you’re noticing. You may not have to track everything for very long before you start seeing the patterns you’re seeking.
Make Note of Routines
Your elderly family member’s daily routine, even if it doesn’t seem like it’s a routine, can tell you a lot. On the surface, your senior’s routine might look haphazard, but odds are that she’s got a fairly regular schedule for meals, sleeping, and other activities. Even if you aren’t sure what her routine has been, this time that you’re tracking is going to help you to see it.
Track Activities, Meals, and Quality of Sleep, Too
You’re going to want to look at what’s happening on a fairly granular level because there are a lot of different triggers that can make sundowning worse for your senior. Keep track of when your senior is eating, but also what she’s eating and drinking. You want to know when she’s sleeping, but also how refreshed she feels and how long she slept.
Review Your Notes
The most important part of this tracking exercise is to review what you write down. Often the patterns don’t jump out at you while you’re taking notes. They jump out when you’re reviewing your notes later. This gives you something you can take right to your senior’s doctor.
Talk to Your Senior’s Doctor
Make sure you bring your notes with you to your elderly family member’s doctor. You may already have some ideas about what’s triggering worse sundowning symptoms and what you might do about that. But her doctor can help you to dig even deeper into what you’ve found.
If you need additional help, elderly care providers have experience assisting family caregivers and seniors with dementia as they adjust to their new normal. Let them share that experience with you and help you to improve your senior’s quality of life.