20 May Sundowner’s Syndrome: What Is It and How Can You Help?
Sundowner’s syndrome, or sundowning, is a common issue among individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. The term is used to describe an increase in dementia-related behavior issues in the late afternoon or evening. These behaviors may include increased levels of agitation, increased confusion, a tendency to wander more frequently, greater levels of disorientation, and even hallucinations.
If your loved one is displaying signs of sundowner’s syndrome in relation to their Alzheimer’s or dementia, there are a few things you can do to help ease their stress and confusion in the afternoons and evenings. Keep reading to learn more.
What Causes It?
First, let’s discuss the reasons behind sundowner’s syndrome. While there is no clear, definitive cause, there are likely several factors that drive Alzheimer’s and dementia patients to be more irritable and more easily confused later in the day.
Primarily, it is likely linked to your loved one simply being tired and overwhelmed from activities earlier in the day. Many elderly individuals have a hard time acknowledging that their physical limits are much lower than they used to be, and may overextend themselves earlier in the day. This weariness and overstimulation can cause them to feel more irritable, and to struggle with greater feelings of confusion.
Additionally, their internal clocks have been programmed over decades of life to recognize the evening hours as a “transitional” time. This is the time of the day when they would be picking up kids from school, returning from work, spending time with family, etc. Now that their daily lives have dramatically changed, it can be difficult for a patient with Alzheimer’s or dementia to handle this lack of activity at this time of day.
So what can you do to help your loved one deal with sundowning? Here are some simple tips.
Plan for the Problem
One of the first things you can do is to anticipate your loved one’s increased levels of confusion and irritability in the afternoons and evenings. Try to reduce their activities and avoid outings at this time of day. Plan for quiet time at home instead.
Follow a Schedule
Schedules and routines can be a great help for patients suffering with memory loss. Having a clear routine throughout the day will provide your loved one with structure that mimics the schedules they kept earlier in their lives. As mentioned above, scheduling quiet time at home during the times they’re usually more irritably may be a good idea. Additionally, make sure that you’re not scheduling too many activities during the day, to avoid exhausting them even sooner than normal.
Reassure and Redirect
When your loved one inevitably reaches their more difficult hours of the day, do not attempt to argue with or “reason” with them. Remember, those with Alzheimer’s and dementia are generally very difficult to reason with, and you will likely only end up frustrating yourself and upsetting them further. Instead, offer reassurance, and redirect them away from any topics or activities that make them seem agitated or restless.
Identify Causes of Agitation
While there won’t always be a clear cause of your loved one’s agitation or confusion, there will be times that you can identify a certain topic, activity, or other outside stimuli that is upsetting them. Loud or persistent noises, for example, may upset some patients. Whenever possible, identify and remove any stimuli that can lead to increased agitation for your loved one.
Look Out for Signs of Discomfort
Often, patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia struggle to communicate their needs to their caretakers. Instead, they simply become more irritable or aggressive. If you’ve noticed a significant and sudden increase in your loved one’s agitation levels, see if you can identify any causes of discomfort or pain. This may be something as simple as new clothing or shoes that don’t fit them properly, or as serious as an underlying infection, such as a UTI.
Recognize Your Needs
As a caregiver, it is important that you take time to recognize your own needs, and take a break when you need it. Failing to take care of yourself and get proper amounts of rest can lead to you feeling more irritable and short-tempered. This can exacerbate your loved one’s dementia-related behaviors, and cause negative situations to escalate much more rapidly.
Consult a Professional
It is vital that you consult with a health professional about your loved one’s care needs as their Alzheimer’s or dementia progresses. If your loved one is demonstrating severe behavior issues related to their dementia, or you’re struggling to provide the care they need, contact Best for My Parents, and we’ll help you find the professional care your loved one needs.