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Alzheimer’s Care: Helping To Manage Sundowner’s Syndrome

Living with Alzheimer’s can be a challenge for the entire family. Whether your family has professional Alzheimer’s care assistance or if you are caring for your loved one alone, it can seem as if each day is full of new challenges and developments.

One of the things that makes Alzehimer’s care so challenging is that those living with the disease can have different needs at different times of the day. Late afternoon and early evening can be especially hard for those who experience Sundowner’s Syndrome.

What is Sundowner’s Syndrome?

It is a change in behavior, temperament, or personality that occurs in the late afternoon or early evening. This occurrence is also known as “sundown syndrome” or “sundowners” or “sundowning.”

The experts at WebMD cite that 1 out of 5 people in need of Alzheimer’s care suffer from Sundowner’s Syndrome. Doctors do not really know what causes the sundowning behavior. However, the part of the brain that tells you if you are awake or asleep breaks down in Alzheimer’s patients. Some scientists think these neurological changes affect the inner body clock.
Sundowning can manifest in several ways. Your loved one may become:

  • Agitated
  • Restless
  • Irritable
  • Confused
  • Disoriented
  • Demanding
  • Suspicious

They may even yell or pace around the room, sometimes hearing or seeing things that are not there. They could exhibit mood swings. These behaviors can become progressively worse and can range in duration from a short time to the entire night.

Suggestions for Managing Sundowner’s Syndrome

As a family caregiver, you will need to demonstrate flexibility and empathy to help your loved one feel as peaceful as possible.

  1. Observe
    Take careful notice of events that trigger the behavior. Does the evening news instigate agitation? Is the late afternoon a time of significant activity in your home? Anything that disturbs the normal order of the day could prompt a behavioral change. Nutritional triggers can also stimulate behavior. Assess and possibly limit caffeine, sugar, and alcohol intake.
  2. Distract
    If this is their new reality, you must endeavor to understand it. Don’t rail against them, but calm them with activities, music, or television shows they enjoy. It will divert their attention from troubling thoughts yet soothe them with the familiar things they love.
  3. Adjust
    In addition to natural light, the use of bright lights in the room during the day will ward off the evening shadows and maintain the daytime glow until it is time for bed.
  4. Simplify
    Adjust their sleep environment to one that is welcoming and serene. Light-blocking curtains can create a cocoon-like setting that encourages a restful night’s sleep.
  5. Consult
    Check with your loved one’s doctor* about natural supplements and discuss the possibility of recommending anti-anxiety and even anti-depressant meds. Use caution when purchasing anything over the counter unless the doctor has confirmed there is no interference with already prescribed medications.

Finally, try to have patience. It may take a little time to figure out what combination of solutions works for your loved one. When it comes to Alzheimer’s care, everyone is different. If you need us, we are here to help.

Together with your family, we will give your loved one all the respect and love they deserve with the finest in Alzheimer’s care. To request a free in-home consultation, and find out more about our caregiver services, contact your nearest Visiting Angels office today.

* This article is for information purposes only and should not be considered an endorsement or recommendation for treatment of any kind. If you are concerned about your loved one’s health, a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s, or about their progression after diagnosis, please contact their physician. Visiting Angels does not provide medical care and does not provide recommendations on the type of treatments available for dementia or Alzheimer’s, nor do we endorse any specific treatments.

If you're interested in more information about how in-home care can help your senior loved ones, contact your nearest Visiting Angels office today or call 800-365-4189.
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*Each Visiting Angels agency is a franchise that is independently owned and operated. The Franchisor, Living Assistance Services Inc., does not control or manage the day to day business operations of any Visiting Angels franchised agency.