Does Your Family Member Have Sundowner’s Syndrome?

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Posted Dec 5th, 2018 in Niagara News & Events, Caregiving & Health Tips, Family Caregivers, Home Care Niagara

Does Your Family Member Have Sundowner’s Syndrome?

Sundowning is one of the symptoms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. You may also hear it called “late day confusion.” That’s because it is a behavioral symptom that comes on late in the day. Being able to recognize sundowner’s syndrome can help you to know when it’s time to talk to the doctor or make changes to your aging relative’s care.

What is Sundowner’s Syndrome?

Sundowner’s syndrome, or sundowning, happens late in the afternoon and often continues as the night goes on. Generally, it is a worsening of the person’s usual dementia symptoms. You might notice increased anxiety, confusion, or aggression later in the day.

Doctors aren’t certain what causes sundowning. One theory is that it has something to do with a person’s internal clock so that changes occur in the brain as the day goes on. Even though they don’t know the cause, experts have determined some factors that may trigger sundowning.

The triggers include:

  • Being tired.
  • Dim lighting.
  • Shadows.
  • Feeling hungry or thirsty.
  • Boredom.
  • Difficulty separating dreams from reality.

It’s also possible that older adults may respond to the way the caregiver is feeling at the end of the day. Even if the caregiver doesn’t say how they are feeling, the older adult may pick up on the fact that they are feeling tired or frustrated.

Managing Sundowner’s Syndrome

Sundowning can be difficult to deal with, but there are some things you can do to manage it.

Some things to try are:

  • Stick to a regular schedule, so that the older adult wakes up and goes to bed at around the same time each day. Also, develop a routine for bedtime, so the senior recognizes what is going on.
  • Do things during the day that will encourage sleep at night, such as physical activities, exposing the senior to light, and keeping daytime naps to a minimum.
  • Don’t allow the senior to consume sugar or caffeine close to bedtime.
  • Increase indoor lighting as the afternoon approaches. This will reduce shadows in the house, which can help with confusion and anxiety.
  • Keep the environment calm and soothing by eliminating background noises and activities. Instead, play familiar and soothing music. 

Homecare can assist your aging relative during an episode of sundowning. Homecare providers can make sure they stay safe, preventing them from wandering or doing something that could hurt them. Homecare providers can also turn more lights on to eliminate shadows and create a calm environment. Homecare providers can also reassure the senior that they are safe.

Sources:  https://www.healthline.com/health/dementia-sundowning

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/expert-answers/sundowning/faq-20058511

https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/manage-sundowning

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