Carers offer advice for a person with dementia experiencing 'sundowning'

From the April/May 2016 issue of our magazine, Talking Point members share tips on supporting a person with dementia who becomes anxious and wants to ‘go home’, often in the late afternoon – ‘sundowning’.

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Ellaroo says,

‘Mum says she is going to walk home. I let her walk to the corner of the next road where she stops and says, “Is it OK if I go tomorrow, my knees are sore?” It usually works.’

marionq says,

‘When this problem was at its worst last year, I would go out with my husband walking around the streets until he tired. Talking constantly about other topics while walking helped to distract from the purpose of our walking.

‘In truth the only thing that really helped was the antidepressant medication which was prescribed. He wasn’t depressed, but this reduced the agitation which made him want to constantly be on the go. It was a horrible, exhausting time.’

Rageddy Anne says,

‘Nothing works when my husband’s sundowning is in full flow. It can strike quite suddenly, and there’s no diverting him. It can help a bit, sometimes, playing music that he likes, especially if we actually talk about the music.

‘The only thing that really works is to get in the car and go out – not really feasible late on cold nights, though we have been supermarket shopping very late.

‘Some days he sundowns all day long, but more often it starts somewhere between 2 and 4pm, and continues until bedtime.’

tigerlady says,

‘My husband was so frantic in “wanting to go home” that it turned to aggression, with him threatening to smash the door down or kill me if I wouldn’t take him immediately. All the usual things of, “It’s too dark or cold now, we’ll go tomorrow,” etc didn’t work.

‘In the end it was all day, not just at night. Sometimes I would ask where home was and say I would take him, but then he would say, “I’m not telling you,” and walk out. I sometimes got him to bed (although he was still fully clothed) saying we would go tomorrow and five minutes later he would get up and it would start again.

‘I used to have to take him to his bedroom, then run to mine and lock myself in, and just hope he settled.’

technotronic says,

‘My wife tends to change more after 5pm and talks about going home and about having to do things with other people that gets her very upset.

‘Once I talk to her reassuringly telling her that she doesn’t have to go home cos she is already home where she lives with me, and also that she doesn’t have to do anything with other people (as she’d not talked to anyone else for some time), she calms down and becomes happier again, then turns her attention to something else, all worries forgotten about almost instantly.’

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