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What is Sundowning in Dementia Patients?

Sundowning, also known as late-day confusion or sundown syndrome, is a common symptom of Alzheimer’s, or other dementia-related diseases, and occurs in the late afternoon or early evening. This usually occurs in the mid to severe stages of dementia, and it’s important to learn the symptoms, triggers, and how you can help.

Symptoms of Sundown Syndrome

1 out of 5 seniors affected by Alzheimer’s disease experience sundown syndrome. However, it can also affect those who are not diagnosed with the disease. Symptoms to look out for include:

• Irritability
• Confusion
• Demanding or aggressive behavior
• Restlessness
• Disorientation
• Suspicion or distrust

Additionally, your parent or loved one may also exhibit uncharacteristic behaviors, such as yelling, having delusions, or drastic mood swings.

What Causes Sundowning?

While the exact causes of sundowning are unknown, many researchers believe that it has to do with the body’s internal clock. Someone with Alzheimer’s may find it hard to differentiate when to stay awake or go to sleep, as that part of the brain begins to lose function.

There are also many triggers of sundown syndrome. It’s important to find these triggers early on, so that you can help your loved one be as comfortable as possible when combatting these symptoms.

Such triggers can include less light in the home, or more shadows. This can initiate fear and feelings of anxiety, along with disorientation and the inability to separate dreams from reality.

How to Reduce Symptoms of Sundowning

The best ways to reduce symptoms of sundown syndrome are to start by identifying the triggers. Once you know what these are, you can begin to help your loved one avoid them, and continue to these other helpful habits:

Stick to a Routine

Because dementia can make it difficult to remember simple routines, changes can arouse feelings of confusion, anger, and anxiety in your loved one. Keeping a strict regimen can be helpful in reducing sundowning symptoms and allow your parent or relative to feel at ease.

Keep the Lights On

Light therapy is another option when looking to lessen the effects of sundown syndrome. Simply use a full-spectrum fluorescent light, placing it about a meter away from your loved one, and leaving it for a few hours every morning. Additionally, turning on or up the lights in their home can help, too – especially at night.

Stay Active

Because sundown syndrome is thought to derive from changes in circadian rhythms, seniors are often tired and inactive during the days, which leads them to restlessness at night. Helping them stay up and active during the day can create healthier sleep patterns, and essentially combat sundowning symptoms.

Encourage Healthy Eating

Large meals, caffeine, and alcohol consumption can also trigger sundowning symptoms. Tried to encourage your loved one to eat a lighter meal for dinner, or even a big snack. Limiting caffeine and alcohol after lunch is recommended, as well.

Stay Educated on Sundown Syndrome

If your loved one is suffering from sundown syndrome related to Alzheimer’s, our team at WellSprings Home Care will be more than happy to help. Contact us for more information at (610) 463-0880 or call for a Free Consultation today!

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