How to Help Your Senior with Dementia Manage Sundowning

The later stages of dementia are difficult for your senior and for you as her family caregiver. Making some small adjustments and getting help can be steps in the right direction for easing the difficulties of sundowning for your elderly family member. Sundowning can’t be cured, just as dementia can’t be cured. But you can do some things that can help.

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Senior’s Behaviors

Sundowning is common in people with dementia, especially in the later stages of the condition. You may find your senior to be confused or agitated in the late afternoon and evening. Irritability may be a bigger problem and your elderly family member may be more prone to wandering. If your senior is prone to seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, the symptoms can be even more pronounced.

Seasonal Changes Make it Worse

Seasonal changes, especially around the time that the clocks fall back or spring ahead, can make sundowning a lot worse. Sleep disturbances are an extremely common side effect of both sundowning and seasonal changes, and those disturbances in turn can cause even more difficulty with sundowning because your senior ends up exhausted. Depression, both seasonal and emotional, are also a big complication.

Try to Spend Time Outside or in Natural Sunlight Somehow

Spending time outside when it’s warm enough, particularly in the morning, can help your senior’s brain to get the light that it needs to help reset her circadian rhythm. That also helps with vitamin D production, which can also be helpful for her brain and her body as she adjusts. Vitamin D and sunlight also help with melatonin production, which also helps your senior’s sleep issues. But if getting outside isn’t an option, sitting near a window or using a bright light for a few minutes a day can help so much.

Maintain a Consistent Routine

Routines are incredibly helpful for people with dementia. In the later stages, routines can be even more important, even if your senior doesn’t seem to be aware of them. Hospice care providers can be instrumental in helping your elderly family member to establish and to maintain routines that support her needs.

Sundowning requires a calm environment for your senior, which hospice care can help to ensure that she gets. Hospice services can help with late-stage dementia in many other ways, too, keeping your senior as comfortable as possible with the time that she has left.


If you are considering hospice care in Yuba City, CA, for an aging loved one, please contact the caring staff at PIC Comfort Care today. Call (530) 885-9948.

Shaun Clinkinbeard
Latest posts by Shaun Clinkinbeard (see all)