Those who suffer from different forms of dementia can have increased memory loss, confusion, and agitation when the sun goes down. It can be disheartening and alarming to see a loved one’s symptoms increase at sunset. This condition is called sundown syndrome.
Increased Activity at Sunset:
Typically the end of the day brings shift changes and people coming in and out. These changes and increased activity can lead to anxiety and confusion.
The end of the day brings tiredness, so higher levels of fatigue can be a contributor.
Lack of Light:
Lighting becomes darker as the sun goes down, making it even more difficult to see for someone who is visually challenged.
An imbalance of hormones that regulate awareness of waking and sleeping hours may play a part.
Winter has been known to worsen the symptoms of sundowning. This can mean that it has to do with seasonal affective disorder, depression caused by a lack of sunlight.
Lisa, a 82-year-old with Alzheimer’s, enjoys eating her breakfast in the morning and is in a good mood at her facilities dining hall. In the morning and afternoon she has common symptoms of Alzheimer’s, such as memory loss or confusion. Overall, she is in a good mood, gets along with others, and is easy to manage. As the sun begins to go down and the staff change shifts she starts to become irate, yelling at the staff and acting out towards those around her. This characteristics are commonly known as Sundown Syndrome.
There is not one way to prevent sundowning, it takes getting to know the patient and establishing triggers. Although, there are numerous approaches that have shown to calm those with sundowning.
These approaches have included:
Create a Routine:
Sundowners feel the most safe when they have a stable routine in place. It comforts them to know when their next mealtime or activity will be. Otherwise, they live in a constant state of anxiety and confusion. When things aren’t predictable it becomes difficult to comprehend because their cognitive abilities are limited. If vigorous activities will take place make sure to schedule them in the morning.
Certain foods can cause behavioral problems, such as consuming caffeine or high amounts of sugar in the evening.
Unnecessary noise can be overwhelming in the evening, this can include radios or TVs. Also, late visits are not recommended and should be moved to the morning time.
Once the sun goes down rooms should be well-lit, so it’s easy to see while moving around. Also, light therapy can help reduce the effects of depression.
A physician should be consulted for medications that can help with sundowning. Especially, if it is being caused by depression or sleeping disorders.
Before taking supplements always consult with a physician first. Herbs that have been seen to help people with Alzheimer’s are ginkgo biloba and St. John’s Wort. Also, Vitamin E has been shown to reduce sundowning.
Entrust of DeSoto: A Resident-centric Memory Care Community in Dallas, Texas
Entrust of DeSoto is a memory care community that puts resident well-being at the center of everything we do. We know that each person is unique. That’s why we offer a wide range of services and lifestyle options to nourish the body and create community.
We understand the importance of home cooked meals and nutrition for seniors and this attitude is reflected in our dining experience. If you or a loved one live near Dallas, Texas and need assisted living, contact Entrust of DeSoto today to learn about our 24-hour care and find out how we can help.