Explaining the Montessori and Dementia Approach to Sundowning

Jun 13, 2024

Sundowning is a common occurrence in individuals with dementia. The Montessori method, known for its focus on independence and engagement, has shown promising results in improving the overall well-being and quality of life for dementia patients.

Let’s explore how the Montessori approach is making a difference in the lives of those affected by dementia.

What is Sundowning?

Sundowning refers to a phenomenon where individuals with dementia experience increased confusion, agitation, and restlessness in the late afternoon or evening hours. This can make it challenging for caregivers and loved ones to provide proper care and support during these times.

Common Symptoms and Triggers of Sundowning in Individuals With Dementia

Sundowning can manifest in various ways, including but not limited to mood swings, anxiety, pacing, and verbal outbursts. There are several factors that can contribute to the occurrence of sundowning, such as fatigue, hunger, noise, and changes in routine or environment.
Common symptoms: mood swings, anxiety, pacing, verbal outbursts
Common triggers: fatigue, hunger, noise, changes in routine or environment

Impact of Environment on Sundowning

The environment plays a crucial role in the occurrence and severity of sundowning episodes. Factors such as lighting, noise levels, and overall atmosphere can either calm or agitate individuals with dementia during these vulnerable times. Creating a soothing and predictable environment can help mitigate the effects of sundowning.

Uncover more triggers of sundowning and find practical tips for dealing with this challenging phenomenon.

Montessori Techniques for Managing Sundowning

Below are some effective Montessori techniques that can help you manage sundowning symptoms:

Provide a Structured Daily Routine

Implementing a consistent and structured daily routine can help reduce anxiety and agitation associated with sundowning. The Montessori approach emphasizes predictable schedules that provide a sense of security and stability for individuals with dementia, helping to minimize confusion and restlessness in the late afternoon and evening.

Incorporate Engaging Activities

Montessori methods encourage engaging activities tailored to the individual’s interests and abilities. Providing purposeful tasks and meaningful activities throughout the day can keep individuals occupied, reduce boredom, and help manage behavioral symptoms associated with sundowning. Activities should be calming and not overly stimulating as the day progresses.

There are various Montessori activities that caregivers can implement to help manage sundowning in individuals with dementia. Some examples include:

  • Creating a memory box filled with familiar objects and photos for reminiscing
  • Engaging in simple puzzles or sorting activities to stimulate cognitive function
  • Setting up a sensory station with calming scents and textures
  • Encouraging light physical exercises or stretching routines

Develop a Soothing Environment

Creating a calm and soothing environment is key in the Montessori approach. Reduce noise levels, adjust lighting to mimic natural daylight, and eliminate potential triggers that may cause agitation. Soft music, familiar objects, and comfortable surroundings can help create a peaceful atmosphere and reduce the symptoms of sundowning.

Utilize Sensory Stimulation

Incorporating sensory activities can be beneficial in calming individuals experiencing sundowning. Montessori methods often use tactile, auditory, and olfactory stimulation to provide comfort. Examples include using aromatherapy with calming scents, offering soft-textured items to touch, and playing soothing sounds or music.

Use Empathy and Communication

The Montessori approach emphasizes empathetic and patient communication. Understanding and validating the feelings of individuals experiencing sundowning can help ease their anxiety. Using clear, simple language, maintaining eye contact, and offering gentle reassurance can make a significant difference in their emotional state and help manage sundowning behaviors effectively.

Enhance Cognitive Function and Social Cognition

  • Use Hands-On Materials: Provide individuals with dementia with manipulative objects and tools that they can interact with to stimulate their cognitive abilities.
  • Encourage Social Interaction: Facilitate opportunities for individuals to engage with others through group activities, games, or discussions to promote social cognition.
  • Practice Patience and Empathy: Approach each individual with understanding and compassion, recognizing that sundowning behaviors are a result of changes in the brain and not intentional actions.

Benefits of Using Montessori Techniques for Individuals With Dementia

Montessori techniques have been proven to be effective in managing sundowning in individuals with dementia. By providing a structured and engaging environment, Montessori activities can help reduce anxiety and agitation that often occur during the evening hours.

  • Improved cognitive function: Montessori activities stimulate the brain and encourage problem-solving skills, which can help individuals with dementia feel more engaged and less restless.
  • Increased sense of independence: By allowing individuals with dementia to participate in meaningful activities and make their own choices, Montessori techniques can help maintain a sense of independence and self-worth.
  • Enhanced social interaction: Collaborative activities in a Montessori setting can foster social connections and reduce feelings of loneliness, which can contribute to sundowning symptoms.

Tips for Caregivers in Managing Sundowning with Montessori Methods

As a caregiver, your support is crucial in managing sundowning in individuals with dementia. By incorporating Montessori methods into your care routine, you can create a more structured and engaging environment that can help reduce the frequency and severity of sundowning episodes.
Below are some practical tips for caregivers to implement Montessori techniques for sundowning management:

  • Establish a Routine: Consistency is key in managing sundowning. Create a daily schedule that includes engaging activities and opportunities for social interaction.
  • Create a Calming Environment: Reduce noise and distractions in the evening hours to help individuals with dementia feel more relaxed and at ease.
  • Encourage Independence: Allow individuals to participate in everyday tasks and activities to promote a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
  • Provide Stimulating Activities: Engage individuals with dementia in sensory-rich activities such as puzzles, art projects, or music therapy to keep their minds active and engaged.

Key Takeaways

More specialized care may be needed for people with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Our memory care program at Fairmont Senior Living on Clayton is based on the Montessori method, and it’s intended to give residents and their families a fulfilling community experience.

Our employees think that:

  • Dementia does not have to be a death sentence.
  • Feelings of equality, respect, and dignity are essential for locals.
  • Dementia-related behavioral expressions indicate unfulfilled wants.
  • Engaging in meaningful work is the best medication.
  • Dementia patients are nevertheless capable of learning.
  • Family members need to learn to emphasize a person’s assets rather than their shortcomings.
  • It matters to be independent.

By teaching our staff the program’s aforementioned principles, we employ physical and cognitive treatment techniques that enable residents to engage in meaningful activities that help manage sundowning symptoms and improve their quality of life. Contact us today to schedule a tour of our community.