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Plan Ahead to Minimize Late-Day Confusion

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If you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, you may dread late afternoon and evening. That’s when a group of symptoms associated with this disease could become particularly challenging.

You may have heard it called “sundowning,” but this condition can best be described as late-day confusion. Do these symptoms that may be presenting in your loved one sound familiar? Anxiety, aggression, ignoring directions, pacing and wandering are behaviors that have been tied to “sundowning,” according to the experts.

So why is this late-day confusion so stressful for family caregivers? If you’ve experienced this with a loved one, you, no doubt, know the answer. These symptoms could inadvertently put a senior in harm’s way. One caregiver noted that her dad had left the house in the evening with his walker to look for his best friend’s house. His confusion later in the day resulted in an unsafe situation for him.

Planning ahead and taking a proactive approach can go a long way toward helping to keep a senior with dementia safe and reducing your stress level. Check out the following:

Five Things to Know About Late-Day Confusion

  1. Avoid the triggers. A number of things could trigger this condition including fatigue, low lighting, increased shadows, disruption of the body’s “internal clock,” difficulty separating reality from dreams, and the presence of an illness such as a urinary tract infection. Triggers vary from person to person, so it can be a good idea to check with your loved one’s doctor to ensure there are no underlying health conditions or triggers. Keeping a journal could also help identify the triggers.
  2. Maintain a regular schedule. Experts say any disruption in schedule can lead to late-day confusion. Try to keep a regular schedule for meals, bedtime, trips outside the home, etc.
  3. Reduce noise and distractions. Any type of noise or outside distraction can create anxiety for an older adult with dementia. Try to minimize loud sounds or other disruptions that could cause stress for the senior in your life. Playing gentle background music may help.
  4. Adjust lighting. Like sound, lighting can be a problem for those with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia. Try to keep lighting in the home consistent by drawing blinds or adjusting shades. Bright and glaring light could aggravate late-day confusion, the experts note.
  5. Engage your loved one in meaningful and calming activities. Distract your senior during this time of day with activities. Have her help with dinner, read or watch the news with him, work on a puzzle, tend the garden or sing songs

Professional in-home care could also be a choice to consider. Home Instead Senior Care® CAREGiversSM can be a reassuring presence in the home to help family caregivers avoid the pitfalls of late-day confusion.

Trying to be proactive and prevent triggers could go a long way toward preventing late-day confusion.

More Family Caregiver Resources to Manage Late-Day Confusion:

Visit HelpForAlzheimersFamilies.com for more free resources to support you along the Alzheimer’s and dementia caregiving journey. The website includes a free app: Daily Companion that offers suggestions for managing symptoms and behaviors associated with dementia.

Last revised: June 10, 2019

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