Sundowning, Wandering, and What Behaviors to Expect As an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

As a caregiver, you will notice many changes in your senior loved one’s behavior as they progress through the three distinct phases of Alzheimer’s disease. When you learn about common Alzheimer’s behaviors found in seniors, you can also learn how to manage them. While providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s will still be challenging, it is easier to help your loved one and protect your mental health when you know what to expect. 

Caring for a loved one with memory loss can be exhausting and take a toll on your mental, emotional, and physical health. At times, caregivers may even experience caregiver guilt and burnout. 

If your senior loved one has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you may be interested in learning about some challenges you may face, the stages your loved one will progress through, how to keep them safe, and communicate with them. 

Let’s look at advice and tips to help you and your senior make the most out of your time together. 

Challenges of being a caregiver

Caring for a senior with memory loss may be one of the most compassionate but difficult things you ever do. It takes love, patience, and a lot of self-care. In addition, it can be challenging to handle their ever-changing moods and unpredictable behavior. 

Studies have found that some of the most common challenges for caregivers include: 

  • Memory loss of their loved one
  • Stress and emotional toll on themselves 
  • Maintaining patience
  • Handling the mood swings and unpleasant behaviors such as:
    • Agitation and aggression
    • Wandering 
    • Confusion
    • Paranoia
    • Hallucinations
    • Refusing to eat or choking on food
  • Daily tasks
  • Managing appointments
  • Managing finances
  • Talking with doctors and health care providers

Common stages and Alzheimer’s behaviors

There are three distinct phases of Alzheimer’s disease, but the three stages can be further broken down into seven different stages.  

The 7 stages of Alzheimer’s

1. The preclinical stage

In this stage, there may be no symptoms at all. 

2. Very mild changes 

Symptoms of mental impairments will not be noticeable. However, any changes in their memory will look like age-related memory decline.

3. Mild decline 

There will be more memory loss, difficulty learning new things, and a decline in work quality. Though the disease is progressing and probably noticeable to you, others may not notice. 

4. Moderate decline

You will notice memory loss, confusion, mood changes, and changes in your loved one’s emotional responses. Now would be the time for your loved one to see their physician. 

5. Moderate severe decline

It could be time to consider memory care, as your senior will need more support. Their ability to live alone safely has come to an end, and they will need assistance with daily tasks and someone to stop them from getting lost, among other difficulties of living independently. 

6. Severe decline

With memory loss and confusion, your senior loved one may experience increased anxiety, stuttering, delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia. 

They may also experience a fear of being alone, making a memory care community the perfect choice. 

If you haven’t transitioned your loved one to a memory care community yet, this would be the time. 

7. Very severe decline 

In the final stage of Alzheimer’s, seniors will have a lack of physical control. They will struggle to swallow, walk, and sit. Along with reduced mobility, their speech may only include up to six words. 


Your senior may experience some unpleasant behaviors as their Alzheimer’s worsens.

Some of these behaviors may include:

  • Changes in their temperament
  • Pacing
  • Rocking
  • Repeating words and stories
  • Falsely accusing loved ones of wrongdoings
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Sundowning
  • Wandering

While it can be challenging to handle Alzheimer’s behaviors, learning what events or situations trigger negative behaviors can be helpful. Not always, but avoiding seniors’ triggers can often ward off some of their fears, anger, and outbursts. 

Preventing unpleasant Alzheimer’s behaviors and mood swings would be the most effective way to reduce challenging behaviors, but that is not always possible. This is why learning how to communicate with your loved one, creating a daily care plan, and other strategies are equally effective. 

When it comes to sundowning and wandering, the best thing you can do for your senior loved one is to remain calm, keep them calm, and assure them that they are safe. 

It is crucial to take all safety precautions to guarantee your loved one’s safety when you know they are prone to these two specific behaviors. Sundowning can make them act out in unusual ways, and as they get agitated or scared, it may make them more likely to wander off. 

Communication tips for caregivers

Learning how to maintain a conversation with your senior loved one will be challenging but beneficial for both of you. The bond you have with your loved one is important and will help them feel safe and less alone. 

If you struggle to find ways to communicate with your senior loved one, The Kensington Falls Church offers Positive Approach to Care (PAC) training for memory care that may help you. 

What PAC does is teach you how to be more empathetic and understanding toward your loved one, which will help you provide the best support you can. In addition, being more caring and understanding can help you be more patient when communicating. 

Having a conversation with your senior loved one may take more time, as they can only speak or understand so many words at once. Speaking in small, simple sentences will make it easier for them to comprehend what you are saying. 

On top of avoiding large words and sentences, you should ask fewer questions and use fewer names. 

Transitioning to The Kensington Falls Church

Caregivers will typically begin looking for a memory care community when their senior loved one has approached the middle stages of Alzheimer’s. 

It can be a difficult choice to make, but finding a modern community that offers enjoyable features may make your decision easier. 

The Kensington Falls Church offers support and Our Promise to care for your loved one as we would our own. 

We are an enhanced memory care, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and assisted living community that provides our residents with on-site rehabilitation services, licensed nurses, psychological services, life-enrichment activities, dining services, and more.  

Contact us if you are interested in learning more about our memory care neighborhoods and the benefits of transitioning your senior loved one into a memory care community. 


Further Reading:

To learn more about our exceptional assisted living and memory care at The Kensington Falls Church, click below or give us a call today for any questions. We promise to love and care for your family, as we do our own.


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