Even though we are in the midst of the ‘dog days of summer,’ you or a loved one may still be experiencing an alarming phenomenon that can be a nightly occurrence for some suffering dementia. Commonly known as sundowning or sundowner’s syndrome, a loved one may appear to be competent during the daylight hours until sundowning appears in the late afternoon and early evening. Often an individual experiencing this syndrome will be confused and exhibit increasing symptoms of agitation, anxiety, perhaps crying, pacing, exit seeking and/or paranoid hallucinations every night from dusk until the early morning.
According to the Alzheimers Association, no one is certain how or why this late-day behavior occurs, although many experts attribute it to the following factors:
- End-of-day exhaustion (both mental and physical)
- Upset in the internal body clock, causing biological mix-up between day and night
- Reduced lighting and increased shadows
- Disorientation due to the inability to separate dreams from reality while sleeping
- Less need for sleep (a common trait among older adults)
The Alzheimers Association also suggests several tips for handling loved ones with Sundown Syndrome. A few of those tips include:
- Plan activities of the day so that there is less to do in the late afternoon. Always keep in mind that fatigue plays a major role in sundowning. Alzheimer’s is often characterized by a downhill daily course from morning competence and cooperation to evening confusion and irascibility.
- Schedule appointments and trips for the earlier part of the day. Plan the person’s day so that less is expected at night. Consider controlling the number of people who visit in the evening hours or confining noisier family activities to another area of the house.
- Control the person’s diet. Reduce foods and beverages with caffeine (chocolate, coffee, tea and soda) or restrict them to the morning hours.
- Help the person to use up extra energy through exercise. For the person who tends to pace or wander in the evening, you may want to arrange at least one or two brisk walks during the day.
- Play quiet music in the late afternoon instead of loud television. Be sensitive to environmental factors that might confuse the person more at night.
For more tips about handling loved ones with Sundown Syndrome or to learn more about this phenomenon you can visit the following sites: