Caregivers often care for seniors with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia; 20% of these seniors may also experience a phenomenon known as Sundowners Syndrome or more commonly known as Sundowning. Sundowning is frustrating, confusing, and scary for everyone involved, especially your loved one, but there are ways to help manage Sundowners Syndrome!
What is Sundowners Syndrome?
Sundowners Syndrome, or Sundowning, is a state of confusion that occurs later in the day and into the night that causes a range of behaviors like increased confusion, anxiety, and aggression. While Sundowning is not a disease itself, it is a typical pattern of behavior to watch for in seniors at certain times of each day.
While your loved one may act aggressively, it’s essential to remember that neither you nor they asked for this to occur, and their behavior is most often based on a fear response and intense feeling of needing to get away. It’s not a rational set of reactions, but the emotions feel very real to seniors who experience Sundowning.
What are the signs of Sundowning?
While signs and symptoms differ from person to person, the following are most common:
- Increased Confusion
What can make Sundowning worse?
While sundowning behaviors can happen without triggers, several factors can make sundowning behaviors worse:
- Disruption of a regular day schedule
- Disruption of a person’s body clock
- Presence of an infection
- Increasing shadows
- Fatigue or illness
- Dimmed lighting
How can I manage Sundowners Syndrome?
While it’s challenging to eliminate sundowning behaviors, you can work to minimize and manage them. Managing behavior requires a caregiver’s strict attention to detail and monitoring of a person’s daily activities.
Stick to a predictable schedule for waking up, meals, activities, and bedtime. If you need to go to an unfamiliar place, bring familiar things to make it more comfortable, like pictures of loved ones or favorite items like a blanket, pillow, or stuffed animal.
Limit caffeine and sugar intake to early in the day or not at all, and try to limit napping during the day to increase sleepiness at night. Plan daytime activities and adequate exposure to sunlight to create a clear separation of daytime and nighttime. Turn off the TV at night to reduce background noise, upsetting sounds, and excess stimulation.
Reduce Daytime Stress
Reducing overall stress by keeping things familiar and routine is a good practice for all seniors with dementia. Reduce emotional stress by simplifying their surroundings. Remove clutter, use soothing colors, and block excess light to reduce stimulation.
An excellent technique to calm agitated behavior is using distractions. Keep favorite things on hand, such as a videotape or DVD of a favorite movie, scrapbook, or pet. Regularly exercising during the day by taking a walk or dancing will help distract from negative behaviors.
Regular Doctor Visits
Sundowning may also occur due to an underlying issue like an infection, most commonly UTIs. Schedule regular doctor visits to diagnose potential issues or ensure your loved one’s physical health isn’t a problem.
Empathy and Reassurance
Avoid restraining your loved one when they are feeling agitated. Pacing can help them work off negative feelings, and getting frustrated or argumentative with your loved one will only agitate them more. Speak calmly, reassure them, empathize with them, whatever they need.
Nevada Adult Day Healthcare is Here to Help
Nevada Adult Day Healthcare Centers provides various services, from professional nursing to speech therapy. Our caring and qualified staff can help your loved one through their daily activities, assess their physical health, and provide physical therapy, hot meals, and more! We are here to help you and your loved one live a more comfortable life, so don’t hesitate to call us today!