Shorter Days and Dementia: Fighting Late-Day Confusion

One of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia is late-day confusion. Often called “sundowning,” this phenomenon usually worsens as the days get shorter. If someone you care for has dementia, you may notice them getting more confused and agitated in late afternoon and evening.

As the days get shorter, late-day confusion can get worse. However, there are ways to reduce its effects. Here are some practical steps you can take to fight late-day confusion, or “sundowning.”

1. A Comforting Routine

Dementia patients often have great difficulty developing new routines. Changes in schedule, surroundings, or habits may cause stress, irritability, or even anger. These can exacerbate confusion and lead to further distress.

On the other hand, a familiar routine can be very comforting. As much as possible, maintain the same schedule every day with your loved one. If you need to make changes, make them as gradually as possible.

2. An Enlighting Adjustment

Light is an important factor in our mental well-being. This is especially true for those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. As the seasons change, it’s important to manage the amount of light in your loved one’s environment.

Studies suggest that light therapy can reduce agitation and confusion in people with dementia. A full-spectrum fluorescent light can be a useful tool. For a couple of hours each morning, place this light about a meter away from where they sit, eat breakfast, etc.

In addition, brightening the lights in the late afternoon and early evening can help reduce the effects of shortening days. The Alzheimer’s Association even suggests brightening the lights when your loved one feels confused or agitated.

3. A Sunny Schedule

Your loved one might experience sundowning as the result of changes in their circadian rhythms (their sleep-wake cycles.) Adjusting the light in their home might help reduce their symptoms.

Plan time outside in the daylight (even if it’s cloudy) in the early part of the day. This time will be more effective if it involves movement and interaction as well. Schedule more calming, indoor activities in the evening. This can enhance your loved one’s natural circadian rhythms and reduce late-day confusion.

Hospice and Palliative Care

If you believe you or a loved one may in need of hospice or palliative care, or if you have concerns or questions about late-day confusion, please call us at 918-745-0222. At Seasons Hospice in Tulsa, Oklahoma, we are here for you. Our caring and compassionate staff will be happy to answer any questions you have regarding caring for a loved one or end-of-life issues. Please do not hesitate to contact us today.

Photo by Matthew Bennett on Unsplash

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