When your friend becomes agitated, specifically in the late afternoon and evening, it is known as sundowning.  They may become suspicious, upset or disorientated, see or hear things that are not there and believe things that are not true.

Possible causes:

  • End of day exhaustion (mental and physical)
  • Boredom,  sleeping a lot during the day and lack of routine
  • Wanting to go home
  • Disorientation
  • Mix up between the day and night
  • Reduced lighting can cause shadows, often resulting in confusion, fear or anxiety


  • Discourage napping or keep naps short.
  • Ask recreation staff to schedule calming activities when agitation usually occurs.
  • Work with staff to restrict sweets and avoid caffeine at night.
  • Provide adequate lighting to help him identify objects and people.
  • Provide items of comfort like a favourite pillow or blanket.
  • Plan and encourage activities during the day.
  • Provide reassurance and reminisce as a distraction.

Example: After a short visit, Hannah struggles to maintain a conversation with her daughter.  She becomes upset, paces in her room and says “I  want  to  get  out  of  here   NOW”. Her daughter notes that her mom experienced similar distress yesterday and the day before around 4:30pm, as she arrives for a visit after work.


  • Request that Hannah is prescribed a medication to calm her, which results in her sleeping much of the day.


  • As late afternoon approaches, turn on bedroom lights and lamps.
  • Close drapes to lessen shadows.
  • Request a morning exercise program to reduce restlessness in the afternoon. 
  • Consult with staff for strategies that provide a sense of purpose, like setting the dining room tables or putting vases out for that evening’s meal.
  • Visit in the morning.

Last Updated: 11/08/2017