What is Sundowners Syndrome

What is Sundowners Syndrome
Dominique Curtin, 2/5/2017
Sundowner’s Syndrome, also known as Sundowning, is a common condition for those who suffer from dementia. It is a disorder that occurs when the sun starts to set, i.e. fading light. About 1 in every 5 people who suffer from the disease will develop Sundowner’s Syndrome and unfortunately, there is no way to stop it from occurring. However, there are steps that can be taken to help manage the symptoms and prevent stress for you.

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What are the signs and symptoms of Sundowner’s Syndrome?

Usually symptoms start becoming more severe during the late afternoon or early evening – typically when the sunlight is fading in to dark. The symptoms usually consist of:
  • Sudden agitation
  • Demanding behavior
  • Disoriented/Confused
  • Restless
You may also see them:
  • Pace
  • Hallucinate
  • Yell or have mood swings
Sundowner’s Syndrome is a very challenging side effect of dementia, and unfortunately doctors do not know why it happens. Some scientists have claimed that there is a correlation between the changes in the brain caused by dementia and the symptoms of Sundowner’s syndrome. If you notice that your loved one seems to be showing signs of:
  • Hunger or Thirst
  • Depression
  • Pain
  • Fatigue
Watch for these symptoms closely, especially in the late afternoon, because they can lead to an episode. It is also important to maintain a nonconfrontational demeanor so as not to cause an incident of Sundowner’s.

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Tips to avoid Sundowner’s Syndrome

  • Keeping a schedule and daily routine for your loved one could help! Try to have them wake up, eat meals and get ready for bed at the same time every day. Also, it would be helpful to schedule appointments, visits from friends and family, and other dementia friendly activities earlier in the day because they are typically feeling their best during that time.
  • Do not permit your loved one to smoke or drink alcohol; as to this could interfere with their sleep schedule.
  • If they are going to consume caffeine or sweets, make sure they do so earlier in the day so it does not keep them up at night.
  • Try to have your love one avoid taking naps four hours (or less) before their scheduled bed time.
  • Keep things calm at night. Make sure to turn the lights on and close the curtains before dusk. Darkness could be a potential trigger, try to avoid it.
  • No exercise four hours before bedtime; try to keep that scheduled earlier in the day because if they work out later in the evening, it will give them energy and interfere with their schedule.
  • If you have guests, or others living with your loved one who has dementia, make sure they are aware of the routine and can help. Also, it is important that they stay quiet and calm in the evenings as well. Encourage your family to play some soft music or a card game; these activities could help relax your loved one before their bedtime.
  • What should you do if your loved one is experiencing Sundowner’s Syndrome?

    If you noticed your loved one is experiencing signs and symptoms of Sundowner’s here are a few tips to try to calm them if they appear to be having an episode.
  • Stay calm
  • Reassure them everything is ok
  • Do not engage in any arguments with them
  • Do not hold them back if they would like to go in to another room, just follow them and stay close
  • Make sure you lock doors and windows to keep seniors safe at home
  • Consider getting motion sensors so an alarm will sound if your loved one gets up and wanders in the evening
  • If you are a caregiver, take a deep breath. Sundowner’s Syndrome is one of the many challenges you face caring for someone with dementia. Hopefully this article will leave you with some suggestions on how to prepare and handle your loved one who is experiencing those symptoms. If you have any personal suggestions or more questions, you can join our community of family caregivers and post your comments there.
    Dominique Curtin

    Dominique Curtin

    Dominique is the Digital Content Manager for HomeCare.com, a leader in the caregiver referral service industry. She has marketing expertise in the healthcare industry and has a passion for helping families connect with the best caregivers. In addition, she has helped lead several company's marketing programs across websites and social media platforms.
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