Sundown syndrome, also called “sundowning”, is characterized by increased restlessness and/or agitation beginning in the late afternoon or evening and often continuing throughout night. It can affect all kinds of people, and even animals, but it is especially prevalent in older people with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
What Causes Sundown Syndrome?
No one is entirely sure what causes sundown syndrome, but experts believe that the degeneration of brain cells associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s might disrupt the production and/or reception of hormones in our body telling us when we should be awake and when we should sleep. Other possible causes include fatigue, hunger and/or thirst, pain, depression, or even boredom.
Symptoms of Sundown Syndrome
If you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, you might want to keep a lookout for symptoms of sundown syndrome later in the day, especially as the sun starts to set and make the transition from day into night. Symptoms include increased agitation, pacing, and even yelling.
While it can be difficult to bear the brunt of what feels like personal attacks from your loved one, it’s important to understand the reasons behind why they might be acting that way. In many cases, people with dementia or Alzheimer’s tend to lash out when they are especially confused. Realizing you don’t remember where you are or what’s going on is a terrifying sensation, and it’s possible that your loved one might lash out verbally, or even physically, when feeling confused.
How to Cope with Sundown Syndrome
As difficult as it can be, especially when family members are involved, it’s important not to take it personally when your loved one with dementia lashes out at you. Remember that it’s less likely to be about you and more likely to be about something else they find confusing or upsetting and you just happened to be a convenient target for their agitation.
Remain calm and try to get to the root of what’s causing their confusion. Try to reassure them that everything is OK and to distract them from whatever it is that might be upsetting them. Keeping their favorite snack handy can be a great way to distract them, and if hunger is a trigger of their sundown syndrome, then you could be killing two birds with one stone by feeding them.
Other tips for coping with sundown syndrome include removing other triggers of anxiety and agitation. You’ll get a feel for what these triggers are for your loved one as their disease progresses, but some common ways to avoid or reduce the symptoms of sundown syndrome include reducing noise and/or clutter, and/or reducing the number of people in the room. While it might sound like fun to bring the whole family for a visit, the reality can be overwhelming for someone who doesn’t always recognize the people surrounding them, so working with other members of the family to make sure you all get a chance to visit with your loved one at different times can often prove most beneficial to everyone involved.
While caring for aging loved ones can be incredibly rewarding, it can also be stressful and overwhelming. That’s why our goal at Stillwater Senior Living is to provide your loved one with the best care possible so you can go about your life without having to worry about them, which means your visits can be spent on more quality time with your loved one. Reach out now if you have any other questions about how we can help your loved one age in place.
Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites, and we are pet friendly. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family. We are also excited to open our Memory Care Neighborhood in the Spring of 2020.
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