If you are a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia (whether at home, in assisted living, or elsewhere), you will likely experience sundowning/shadowing at some point in the disease progression.
Sundowning, per the Alzheimer’s Association, is a behavioral issue that typically surfaces in the late afternoons and evening, i.e. when the sun goes down; it affects nearly 20 percent of those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Shadowing, a related issue that was raised during this week’s #TalkAlz chat on Twitter, refers to individuals who closely follow their caregivers, seek constant engagement, ask questions repeatedly, and at times even mimic their words and actions.
Both of these behaviors are problematic for both the caregivers and individuals. As there are numerous triggers, the best first step for caregivers may be to determine what the primary trigger is and work from there. In Alzheimer’s care communities, the change of staff at the end of the day shift is upsetting for many residents. The increasing darkness outside and reduced lighting inside provokes agitation and anxiety. The Alzheimer’s Association also points to “disorientation due to the inability to separate dreams from reality while sleeping” and an “upset in the internal body clock.”
Find ways to comfort and affirm the individual during these natural transitions in the day. Get tips and ideas from the Alzheimer’s Association here.