What Is Sundowner’s Syndrome?
If you have a friend or family member suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, you know how destructive these conditions can be. Individuals gradually lose cognitive skills and functions, resulting in memory loss and the inability to carry out daily tasks. Some patients experience symptoms that increase in severity as nightfall comes, a series of behaviors commonly known as Sundowner’s Syndrome.
With no known cause, the symptoms collectively known as Sundowner’s Syndrome affect approximately one in five Alzheimer’s patients, as well as others with different types of dementia.
As daylight decreases and the day transitions into the night hours, these patients usually see a worsening of their symptoms. Patients experience increased levels of agitation, depression, anger, fear, stubbornness, and paranoia. Patients may be seen trying to hide items of value from their family or caregivers, and may also experience different types of hallucinations that may not be prevalent during daytime hours.
What Causes Sundowner’s Syndrome?
Despite the name, it is believed that the syndrome is not directly related to the sun going down, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Scientists and medical professionals are unsure of what causes the behaviors, with some believing that Sundowner’s is a result of an overload of sensory stimulation during the day. Others believe that it is caused by hormonal imbalances that occur in the evening hours, brain fatigue, or even anxiety caused by being unable to see in the dark.
There is no known treatment for Sundowner’s Syndrome, but symptoms can be managed through implementing the following practices for both patients and their caregivers.
What Can You Do?
- Keep Calm While caring for someone suffering with dementia can be stressful and frustrating, it’s important to keep in mind that their ability to view the world around them in a clear and realistic way is slowly getting worse. Displays of anger and frustration will only serve to frighten them more and increase their already-increased levels of fear, anxiety and depression. Staying calm while interacting with these individuals will help to ease their anxiety and stress.
- Follow A Routine Following a daily routine may help to ease confusion that people with dementia may face. By giving them something to repeat on a daily basis, those with Sundowner’s may enjoy lower levels of anxiety due to having a planned out day ahead of them.
- Encourage Activity During The Day Properly managing an individual’s sleep is crucial when caring for someone suffering from Sundowner’s. By making sure they are active and expending energy during the day, the chances they have a better night’s sleep improves.
- Keep Evenings Calm Keeping evenings calm, especially after an active day, is an important way to help an individual wind down. Low-energy activities, like arts and crafts, can help individuals relax before going to bed.
- Make Sure They Are Eating A Proper Diet Sundowner’s symptoms can be made worse if they are eating high amounts of sugar or ingesting caffeine. Stimulants can increase the severity of symptoms, particularly if they are taken before bed.
- Stay Rested Caring for an individual with dementia is mentally, emotionally, and physically taxing. Caregivers often find themselves short on sleep and, in some cases, struggle to maintain healthy lifestyles. By ensuring that you get enough rest, you will be better suited to handle intense situations that caring for someone with dementia can present.
- Seek Continued Medical Advice Most important of all is to stay in touch with a medical professional familiar with the patient’s history. Urinary problems or other underlying health issues may be making symptoms worse. Keeping a doctor or other medical professional updated with signs and symptoms will help to improve the patient’s health and limit other health problems.
Remember, while these practices are not foolproof, nor are they tailored to every individual suffering from Sundowner’s Syndrome, they offer guidance to caregivers that may help to create a more suitable environment for those with Sundowner’s Syndrome.