sundown syndromeIf you are around a family member or someone you know with a form of dementia, you may notice erratic behavioral changes as it gets closer to dark. Also known as late-day confusion, sundown syndrome is a condition that causes patients with brain-related illnesses to be more irritable or incoherent in the late afternoon and evening. As their condition worsens, sundowning becomes more noticeable and tougher to manage. However, understanding how this syndrome is triggered or evolved can help you deal with the problematic symptoms it produces.

What are the Symptoms and Causes of Sundowning?

As for the main causes, doctors can’t pinpoint what exactly causes sundown syndrome. However, one factor that seems to be a trigger is fading light. Some scientists have claimed that brain changes within a person with dementia can affect his or her body clock. As a result, signals in the brain that help you awaken or fall asleep diminish. Hence, sleeping becomes more of an issue while hunger, boredom, depression, and exhaustion can also set-off sundown syndrome.

Patients with sundown syndrome are likely to be at the middle or advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. Indicators include agitation, irritability, confusion, restlessness, suspicious, and disorientation. Patients can also become very demanding and start to yell and pace the floor. They can also hear or see things that aren’t there. It is common for people affected by these diseases to be afraid of shadows, making them increasingly fearful as they have trouble separating reality from illusions.  

Treatment Options

Sundowning cannot be cured, but its effects can be reduced. To lowering its symptoms, a lot of structure must be arranged in the person’s life.

The main thing that a caregiver can do is to try and keep a smile on a loved one’s face, even when it’s difficult. Your patient or loved one will notice any frustration you exhibit and become upset themselves. It’s essential that you try keeping a level head, even in the toughest of circumstances. Ask questions, reassure your loved one that things will be alright and allow him or her to move around under close supervision. Be watchful, but relaxed to reduce tension.  

Keeping your loved one on a strict diet and schedule will ensure he or she gets used to a functional routine. You should also prevent a loved one from drinking or smoking and try to make more substantial lunches, so meals in the evening can be simple and relaxed. Set the times for meals, for waking up, and for bathing during an earlier part of the day.

Calm Things Down

Do things that make your loved one or patient comfortable in the evenings instead of dread them.

Turn on as many lights as required while closing curtains and blinds across the room. Night-lights are a good suggestion as you can put them anywhere in the house. You can play some soothing music or help them read to relax, and you could even encourage whoever you’re treating to play a game.

Put away any dangerous objects and use something to block off the stairs, if your home has them. Lock all doors and keep sensors around that will let you know if your patient is moving around.

Sundowning can take its toll on your health as well as the person directly affected. Get as much rest when you can while also keeping yourself and your loved one as active as possible. If you have a family member or spouse who suffers from this syndrome and you need help with caregiving, Colten Adult Care is the place to call. Get in touch with Peter anytime!