A sundial representing sundowning in elderly people.

Sundowners In Elderly  


Sundowning is a state of increased agitation, confusion, disorientation, and anxiety that typically occurs in the late afternoon or evening in some individuals affected with dementia. Elderly men and women are vulnerable to become victims of sundowning. Those who suffer from Alzheimer’s, dementia, or Parkinson’s disease are more susceptible to Sundowning. Sundowning may occur in the mid to late stages of dementia and may progress as the stages of dementia worsen. Sundowning affects 1 in 5 people with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is the leading type of dementia, and as many as 5.8 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease. This number will nearly double for individuals who are past 65 years of age within the next five years. 

Having better knowledge of why sundowning occurs can help with dealing with someone who experiences sundowning. Doctors are not a hundred percent sure why sundowning occurs, however, some scientists believe that there is an imbalance in the brain. This imbalance changes the brain’s signals in elderly women and men who suffer from dementia2. These changes that occur affect the area of the brain that signals when you are awake or asleep which may cause confusion which can cause sundowning2.

Sundowning Behavior 

Unfortunately, there are many triggers associated with sundowning. Understanding these triggers and establishing patterns of behavior will assist you with dealing with someone who experiences sundowning. Once a pattern of behavior has been established you are able to limit the triggers associated with the patterns correlating with the sundowning episodes that may occur. An elderly person who is sundowning may become agitated, restless, irritable, confused, disoriented, demanding, or even suspicious2. Helping an elderly man or woman keep a daily routine, ensure they get a good night’s rest, and keep your evening routine calm with little activity may help limit the triggers that may cause sundowning. Avoid things that may cause sundowning to exacerbate, such as, serving coffee or any other caffeinated drink late in the day, serving alcohol which may lead to confusion and anxiety, or planning a full day of activities which may cause an elderly man or woman to become exhausted. 

Sundowning Care

If you encounter an elderly woman or man who is sundowning be sure to listen to what they are saying, stay calm, do not argue, reassure them of their concerns, and allow them to move about if needed but keep them safe by locking doors/windows2. Listening and understanding what your elderly loved one is saying is important. They may believe that they are living a moment in the past; do not bring them to the current time. Allow them to enjoy this past time as their past may be their reality and interfering with this will make them hostile, their reality maybe a trigger to sundowning. If you are frustrated or exhausted, you are not able to care for your loved one as needed. Do not be ashamed to reach out to a friend or family member for help. If sundowning episodes become more frequent or out of control consult with a doctor on guidance for your loved one. 

At Culpepper Place of Olive Branch, we take pride in helping our residents who suffer from sundowning within our Community. Please contact Culpepper Place of Olive Branch today to find out more!

1 Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Sundowning. In Merriam-Webster.com medical dictionary. Retrieved August 13, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/sundowning 

2 Web-MD. How to Manage Sundowning by Brenda Goodman, MA.  Retrieved August 13, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/manage-sundowning 

3 Matthews, K. A., Xu, W., Gaglioti, A. H., Holt, J. B., Croft, J. B., Mack, D., & McGuire, L. C. (2018). Racial and ethnic estimates of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in the United States (2015–2060) in adults aged≥ 65 years. Alzheimer’s & Dementia. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jalz.2018.06.3063 4 National Institute on Aging. Alzheimer’s Caregiving Tips for Coping with Sundowning. Retrieved August 25, 2021, from Tips for Coping with Sundowning | National Institute on Aging (nih.gov)

Posts You Might Also Like

An aging couple rides bicycles together in the park

Aging: What Happens When  You Get Older?

As we all know aging is a natural part of life, but are you ever really ready to grow old? Old is described by Webster as a grayish or dusty color, showing the effects of time or use, advanced in years or age, or one

Read More »
A cigarette smolders in an ashtray representing the health risks of smoking over age 50

Smoking Over the Age of 50

Tobacco is considered to be one of the leading health issues worldwide. It has been reported by Our World in Data that in the 20th century 100 million people died from health issues related to tobacco use and 1 billion people could die throughout the

Read More »
A man sits at a table and sips his coffee while checking his iPad.

Health Insurance for Seniors – 2022 Updates

Health insurance for seniors is getting more and more complicated and expensive. According to a study by Fidelity Investments, a couple who retires in 2022 at age 65 can expect to spend an average of $315,000 in healthcare expenses in the remainder of their lives.

Read More »

Get In Touch

Are you looking for a caring, compassionate, assisted living facility? You’re looking in the right place. Since 1955, Culpepper Place has cultivated an environment that prioritizes our resident’s health, happiness, and socialization. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.