Sundowning - what does it mean?

younger woman accompanying older woman walking on a pathway heading towards some seating

With sundowning, as the day goes on, the person with dementia becomes gradually more confused, more disorientated and more unaware of their surroundings. - Credit: pxhere.com

Few of you may have heard the term 'sundowning' when dementia is mentioned but I suspect many have not.

The reason for this is no one’s fault; it’s something that can happen to somebody who has dementia even though nobody is quite sure why it happens.

As the day goes on, as the name suggests, the person with dementia becomes gradually more confused, more disorientated and more unaware of their surrounding or recognition of people they may have known for years.

This can happen anytime from mid-afternoon onwards.

I suffer from this and any work I do around the Purple Angel campaign and the computer is usually wrapped up by 4pm latest if I am lucky.

It really is a strange phenomenon and doesn’t happen to all with dementia but it can be so debilitating.

It can also be more debilitating for carers and loved ones alike because their behaviour becomes even more  difficult - but there are ways around this that may be able to help.

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Because sundowning mainly happens in the afternoon, when you ring for a doctors' appointment - if you can get one these days, that is - please insist you make it in the morning and not afternoon and explain to the doctor or receptionist why.

If they won’t accommodate you, I would suggest changing practices because small things like this, and small changes, can help loved ones and carers so very much.

The same applies for dentists or podiatry, even when shopping.

Please take them with you at their very best time which is usually in the morning. I know mine is, and then in the afternoon if they are having episodes of sundowning, they will be in familiar surroundings at home and not somewhere they might not recognise.

I know this may sound very simple to some and they may well think 'why has nobody told us this before?'

Well, my honest answer is I don’t know, maybe its because sometimes they want to bamboozle you with science, big words, plaques, tangles and the likes and fill you full of false hope by saying things like 'red wine can cure dementia' - by the way, I wish!

But until the British Medical Board comes out and says in a statement, a bit like Boris at the podium, that they have found a cure for dementia, please don’t believe all you hear, false hope is worse than no hope.

Here at the Purple Angel we will always try and keep it simple - not to patronise but to help people understand dementia in plain English and bit by bit.

I have been asked many questions in the past about living with my dementia, how I cope, how my long-suffering wife Elaine copes and why we do what we do and my answers always the same, which is what choice do I have?

When first diagnosed all those years ago, my family sat me down and said you have two choices - you can either sit there and do nothing or get up off your rear and do something about it.

The first option to do nothing would have never been an option for me.

Dementia or not, do I believe a cure is on the way? Yes, I do - 100 per cent and in my life time too. I have to, or I could not do  what I do today.

One the day a cure will arrive and then dementia itself will become just a memory. How ironic is that?