Sundowning in Seniors

Elders who suffer from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are prone to wandering, can show aggression, combativeness and signs of confusion. A small number of these Alzheimer’s and dementia patients often exhibit these symptoms in the late-afternoon and evening, this is typically referred to as “sundowning.”

A senior who shows signs of sundowning may behave perfectly normal in the early morning and afternoon, but as twilight approaches, they might start to show signs of aggression, combativeness, become paranoid or suspicious, have a tendency to want to wander and become restless. While it is not clear what causes sundowning to occur, some scientists think that the changes in the brain of someone affected by dementia and Alzheimer's can have an effect on their inner body clock. This area of the brain that signals when you’re awake or asleep breaks down in people with Alzheimer’s.

People who exhibit sundowning behavior will show signs and symptoms of:

  • Wandering
  • Aggression and combative behavior
  • Agitation and yelling
  • Delusions and hallucinations
  • Disorientation
  • Restlessness
  • Insecurity

One of the best ways to combat sundowning is to avoid activities in the late afternoon and early evening and adopt a normal sleep cycle.