I have noticed that my person is very confused and paces in the late afternoon and well into the night. Several times they have gotten quite angry when I have attempted to comfort them. What’s happening?
When the person with dementia becomes more confused, disoriented to time and place, agitated and often anxious and sometimes angry in the late afternoon and evening hours this is called Sundowning. This is a term that is used to describe this set of symptoms. At this point in time there is no known cause for this rapid change in behaviour except for the declining light at the end of the day. This is why it has been termed “sundowning.” The person may be more tired at the end of the day. Remember their brains are working harder than ours. They may have been over stimulated by their day. Or they may be hungry or thirsty. Regardless of the cause some specific tips are suggested. Offer the person a quiet place to be. Turn on all the lights, and close the drapes to the outside windows. Offer some small refreshments. Do not over stimulate them with questions, assurances, or comfort measures. What they need is a quiet and peaceful time. Be observant from another room if possible but don’t hover. Make sure the person is safe and there is no risk to them harming themselves but keep your distance. Our natural reaction when we see someone we care about being upset is to attempt to provide support and comfort. For a person with dementia this can be overwhelming and overstimulating. If the person is showing anger in their body language or in their speech then it is best not to engage them in any conversation. Agree with them, and walk away. Many more suggestions can be discussed with our outreach counsellors at the Alzheimer Society Peel.