There are many changes that come as we age. Anxiety in seniors at night is common. As your loved one ages, you may start to recognize changes in their behavior. Let them know that what they are feeling is not uncommon and that you want to help.

Encourage your elder to talk to you. Sharing their feelings is a great way for them to understand and rationalize their thoughts.

Nights can be frightening, especially if they live on their own. Sundown syndrome and nightmares are two common psychological disturbances that occur as elders age.

What is Sundown Syndrome?

It is also referred to as “sundowning”. It occurs late in the day as the sun goes down. Elders with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may have a change of behavior during this time of day. Sundowning is a symptom of dementia, not a disease. The reason for this symptom has yet to be determined, but it is known that the trigger is the fading of daylight. As the night progresses, the symptoms get worse.

If a person has dementia, as they age, their internal clock is altered.

Elders may become confused or irritable, maybe even act aggressively. They may yell or pace or wander off. This behavior poses a safety concern to elders as they are at a higher risk for injuries due to falls.

There is no cure for this syndrome, and it only gets worse as they age.

Nightmares or Night Terrors

The other common disturbance that elders experience is nightmares or night terrors. This is more likely to occur if the elder person is experiencing depression or anxiety. Nightmares and night terrors are intrusive to their sleep and can be difficult to recover from. With poor sleep, elders become more anxious, and the cycle worsens.

With night terrors, the senior appears to awaken and show signs of fear and agitation. They tend to occur early in the sleep cycle and do not usually last long.

What you might see during a night terror is your elderly loved one may:

How to Manage Sundowning and Nightmares/Night Terrors

1. Encourage and assist your loved one with having a schedule.
Maintain a predictable schedule for meals, medications, and bedtime routines. Be mindful of mid-day napping, it can cause confusion and lead to difficulties for them to fall asleep at night. Schedule for exposure to the sun in the afternoon.
Create a bedtime routine of reading or listening to music, brushing teeth and hair, etc. Structure is beneficial.

2. Reduce stimulating activities at night.
Dim the lights as the night progresses and don’t engage in exciting activities. Change watching television to listening to relaxing music. Introduce meditation or reading. Encourage them to not eat spicy or sweet foods or anything caffeinated.

3. Keep the bedroom sleep-friendly.
Turn the bedroom into a sanctuary for sleep. A tranquil space for them to end their day in. Limit noise and distractions in this space as much as possible. Keep the temperature comfortable. Dim the lights to imbue a sense of calm.

4. Seek assistance or advice.
Talk to a healthcare provider about any changes you see in your elder. Ask about your elder seeing a therapist. This may help with anxiety and depression

While you may want to be the sole care provider for your loved one, it may not be feasible for you. Caring for your elder can weigh heavy on you as well. The desire to protect them and provide them with a good quality of life is commendable; however, you must also do the same for yourself. Look into hiring a caregiver to assist you with the care of your loved one.

At Care at Home by ExquisiCare, we have qualified and caring staff who can assist with activities of daily living, medical and non-medical. From personal care assistance and medication reminders to companionship. We cater to seniors and their families. We are here to help your loved one age in place, in the comfort of their home, for as long as possible.

If you would like a free consultation with our Care Manager, you can reach us at 780-707-6509.




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