Pittsburgh / Allison Park Senior Care Blog

Can Elder Care Help with Sundowning?

By Amy Felman

Sundowning is a word used to describe the late day confusion that can happen in people with dementia. Sundowning causes the older adult’s behavior to change and can be very difficult for family caregivers to deal with. It can make the senior agitated and irritable. They may pace, yell, be suspicious of you, or hallucinate. Sundowning occurs in about 1 of every 5 people who has Alzheimer’s disease. It is believed to be triggered by changes in light as night time approaches. Another theory is that sundowning is caused by the part of the brain that controls waking and sleeping being damaged. Because of the challenge of dealing with someone who is sundowning, it can be helpful for family members to have assistance in the evening hours. Elder care is one option to families struggling to care for an older adult with sundowners.

An elder care provider can come to the house each evening to help family caregivers get through the difficult hours. Below are some of the things elder care providers can do to assist.

Identify Triggers

In addition to changes in light, some factors can make it more likely that your older family member will experience sundowning, such as:

  • Being tired.
  • Feeling thirsty.
  • Depression.
  • Pain.
  • Boredom.
  • Sleep problems.

Elder care agencies are often able to match the experience of the provider to the needs of the older adult, so it’s likely the elder care provider who comes to your home will have dealt with sundowning before. Their experience may make it easier for them to see what is triggering the behavior.

Offer a Distraction

Elder care providers can reduce symptoms of sundowning by distracting the older adult. Sometimes engaging them in an activity they enjoy is enough to occupy their mind and reduce sundowning. An elder care provider can play a game with them, make a craft, or prepare a favorite snack.

Create a Calm Environment

The clutter of a room or an active environment can bring on an episode of sundowning. All the noise and visual stimulation can be confusing for your older family member. An elder care provider can help to tidy the room to reduce clutter. They can also turn off the television or radio to reduce noise. If there are several people at the house, the elder care provider can take the older adult into a quiet room and keep them company while the rest of the family visits.


If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring elder care in Pittsburgh, PA, please call the caring staff at Home Helpers. Call today (412) 364-4663.