What is Sundowner’s Syndrome?

If your loved one has just been diagnosed with dementia, you may be hearing some new terms. One of them being, “sundowner’s syndrome.” Our Tapestries memory care team is going to explain what sundowner’s syndrome is and how you can help your loved one with dementia when they are experiencing this.

Sundowners Syndrome

Sundowners Syndrome is a common symptom of dementia that occurs in the evening, around sunset when confusion, frustration, and agitation can become heightened. While this condition is still a mystery in the medical community, and no specific cause is known, it is thought to disrupt the circadian rhythm (your biological clock). The environmental changes that occur as the sun goes down, like low lighting, increased shadows and fatigue can be frightening and confusing for people with dementia. Sundowners Syndrome isn’t considered a condition of its own but rather a symptom that can occur with dementia.

Symptoms

Sundowner’s syndrome can be difficult to diagnose as there are a variety of symptoms that can occur in the evenings. If you or your loved one have any of these symptoms, please speak to a medical professional. Some of the Sundowner’s symptoms can include but are not limited to:

  • Visual and/or Auditory Hallucinations
  • Delusional Thinking
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Anger
  • Paving
  • Wandering

Treatment For Sundowners Syndrome

While there is no universal treatment for Sundowner’s syndrome there are ways to make this time easier on your loved one with dementia. Being aware and understanding of the effects of Sundowner’s syndrome on your loved one is incredibly helpful, but here are a few proactive ideas that can help manage the effects.

  1. Maintain a regular schedule. Symptoms have declined in people that maintain a firm schedule.
  2. Lighting. Keeping your loved ones’ environment well-lit in the evenings can go a long way. Consider lamps with timers that will go on before the sun starts to go down so the transition from day to night is easier.
  3. Reduce Caffeine. Irregular sleep can exacerbate the symptoms of Sundowner’s syndrome, and the biggest cause of irregular sleep is caffeine. Switch to caffeine-free options like decaf or a naturally caffeine-free tea like chamomile in the evenings.
  4. Encourage Daytime Activity. This helps promote a healthy circadian rhythm and can cause better sleep which can reduce the severity of symptoms.
  5. Discourage Afternoon Napping. Do you know when you take an afternoon nap and wake up feeling worse than before you napped? This can increase the severity of symptoms and also make it harder to sleep a night.
  6. Healthy Eating. A healthy diet helps improve mood and overall health, which has been known to reduce the effects of sundowners syndrome.
  7. Prescription Medication. Sometimes medication is necessary to help reduce symptoms. While there is no medication specifically for Sundowner’s syndrome, there are medications for reducing anxiety, and agitation, or to improve sleep which can all lead to reduced symptoms of sundowners syndrome.

Memory Care at UMC the Shores

Sundowner’s Syndrome can be frightening for you and your loved one but there are always resources available to you. At UMC at the Shores our caregivers are specifically trained to help seniors with all the symptoms that can occupy dementia. For more information, please visit our website at https://umcommunities.org/theshores/

This blog was originally published at https://umcommunities.org/theshores/blog/what-is-sundowners-syndrome/

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