Understanding Sundowners & How To Help

Scientists still struggle to find the reason behind Sundowner’s symptoms. For any caregiver dealing with an Alzheimer’s or Dementia patient, it can be difficult dealing with your loved one’s moodiness, anxiety, and confusion in the evening hours. Here are some tips to help relieve the stress of Sundowner’s symptoms.

What exactly is Sundowner’s Syndrome? Basically, it’s a condition of symptoms where a state of confusion can come over the sufferer, usually in the early-evening hours. Since the brain is already deteriorating, Sundowner’s can become even more complex to the sufferer and of course the caregiver. Here are some common triggers for Sundowning:

  • Too much End-of-day Activity – Researchers have shown that when a lot of activity is going on toward the end of the day, that it could lead to anxiety and confusing.
  • Fatigue – End of the day exhaustion, especially after dinner can be a big contributor to Sundowners symptoms.
  • Low Light – When the sun goes down, the quality of light starts to diminish. What this means is that someone suffering from sundowners could get confused with increased shadows and possibly even more challenging vision.
  • Internal Imbalances – Some researchers believe that when there’s a hormone imbalance, your internal biological clock may get confused between sleeping and waking hours.
  • Winter – In some cases, when Winter’s short days are upon us, Sundowner’s can also be part of Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a common depression caused by lack of natural light.

Just like Dementia and Alzheimer’s, there is not a well-known cause or cure. Although there are ways to diminish symptoms, every approach to each individual could be different. Some helpful ways to manage these symptoms are to:

  • Establish a Routine – When you establish a routine, a person with sundowners feels safe. It helps minimize surprises and changes in their daily rhythm. Without regular activity or food, the sufferer may stay confused or anxious, not knowing how to handle the situation. If you were to schedule any type of activities, make sure to schedule during the morning hours, that was your loved one doesn’t get too fatigued early and has problems sleeping later that evening.
  • Monitoring Diet – Avoid certain foods, such as with sugar or caffeine – especially late in the day. Make sure to watch for patterns that are linked to certain foods.
  • Controlling Noise – It’s helpful to reduce noise around the area, such as TV, radios or other household entertainment in the late afternoon and early evening. If you need to do a household activity, make sure you do it away from the loved one’s bedroom.
  • Letting Light In – Light-boxes are great for therapy, which can help reduce the symptoms of sundowning and depression. When the sun starts to go down, keep the room well-lit so that the sufferer will not get confused with shadows or changed of color.
  • Medicating – Some medications may be helpful for a person with sundowners, and also associated with depression and sleep disorders.
  • Taking Supplements – Some over-the-counter supplements may help benefit and reduce the symptoms. The herb Ginkgo Biloba and St. John’s Wort has helped people with Dementia and Alzheimer’s in the past, just as Melatonin has helped regulate sleep.

It’s important to remember that Sundowner’s Syndrome in your loved one is not something he or she can help. Make sure you remain calm and help your loved one get through these stressful times.

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