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Seniors and Sundowning

As people age there is usually a noticeable change that occurs in their mood and temperament. As a family caregiver, you may have already noticed some of these changes in your loved one with Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

This change in behavior can be hard to handle, and it can be even more difficult when your loved one is suffering from Sundowner’s Syndrome.

Sundowning can basically be described as an extreme behavioral change in seniors around evening or sunset, as the name indicates. Sufferers of Sundowner’s Syndrome may show little or no symptoms during the day time but become very symptomatic at night.

Some symptoms of Sundowning are as follows:

  • Sudden and severe changes in mood, such as anger, crying, fear, depression, and agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Violence
  • Restlessness
  • Aimless Wandering
  • Hiding things
  • Following, or “shadowing,” their caregiver or family member

The manifestations of Sundowner’s Syndrome in seniors can be severe, frightening, and sometimes dangerous. As a family caregiver you may be experiencing some of these changes in your loved one in the evening and wondering what triggers such behavior and how you can manage and prevent it.

When it comes to Sundowning, the cause is still debatable for health care professionals.    Some doctors believe that patients become more symptomatic at nighttime because of stress due to an accumulation of stimulation throughout the day. Others believe that it is caused by hormonal imbalances, fatigue, or overall anxiety[1].

No matter what the cause, the fact remains that Sundowning is a difficult thing to deal with, for both the sufferer and the family caregiver. If you’re caring for a symptomatic senior, you may feel frightened, confused, frustrated, and helpless.

Here are some things you can do to help minimize symptoms:

  • Keep a journal of accounts of your loved one’s symptoms, including time of day, food and drink for the day, and activities
  • Keep your senior hydrated throughout the day but avoid caffeinated drinks in the afternoon and evening
  • Avoid having visitors and guests over in the late afternoon and evening
  • Encourage easy activities throughout the day in order to ensure a better night’s sleep for your loved one
  • Develop a daily routine of mealtimes and activities to help minimize anxiety and maximize comfort and security.
  • Turn on household lights before the sun goes down

Here are some helpful tips for managing a symptomatic senior:

  • Speak slowly, clearly, and calmly to your loved one so as not to agitate them further
  • Use positive instruction and tell the sufferer what you’d like for them to do rather than what you don’t want them to do
  • Play relaxing, soft music
  • Ask specific, yes or no questions in order to understand your loved one’s momentary ailment
  • If your senior wanders, invest in identification bracelets for them as well as locked gates
  • Make time for frequent rest times throughout the day

Unfortunately caring for a sufferer of Sundowning can be both emotionally and physically exhausting. For help, support, and information on how we can help you and your loved one, give us a call anytime, 24 hours a day at 877-462-0682.


[1] © 2006-2010 SundownerFacts.com

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