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What is Sundowning?

By brian barrick
October 07, 2013

What is sundowning? It may not be a term you’re presently familiar with, and your understanding of the condition, will help prevent wandering in your assisted living facility. Sundowning occurs in people with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. It is a psychological phenomenon that is usually associated with confusion and increased restlessness in people who suffer from one or another form of dementia. This condition is often associated with Alzheimer’s disease and those who also suffer from mixed dementia.


The word ‘sundowning’ was attributed to residents due to the time of day they spent confused. Sundowning starts to occur in the evening around the time the sun begins to set. Sundowning happens more often during the middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Residents seen to be aware their behavior is abnormal. During later stages of the disease sundowning occurs less frequently and may stop.

Caregiver advice

It is important to understand sundowning in order to prevent wandering in your assisted living facility. If you see a resident who has become agitated, approach them calmly and try to reassure them. Tell them they will be alright, they are safe and there is nothing to worry about.

A caregiver should try and find out what is worrying the resident and see if there is something they need or you can do to alleviate their worries. It can be useful in some instances to remind the resident of the time of day. Avoid arguing with the resident as this may aggravate the situation.


Try to maintain a sleeping regime and a consistent daily routine which the resident is comfortable with. If possible increase the resident’s daily activity as this may promote a better sleeping pattern.

Keep an eye on the resident to prevent them getting too much sleep in the way of napping as this may prevent quality sleep at night. Activity is a natural way to make a resident tired enough to sleep at the appropriate time. Avoid giving the resident stimulants close to bedtime such as coffee. If possible allow the resident to choose their own sleeping pattern, and if needed provide a dim light, as this may help prevent confusion if they suddenly woke and wondered where they are.

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