Managing Sundown Syndrome In Seniors

If you care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, you may notice some changes in their behavior in the early evening, characteristic of a condition known as Sundown Syndrome, named for the time of the day at which it occurs. Sundown Syndrome is a period of confusion, agitation, or mood swings, among other potential symptoms, which begin in the late afternoon and may continue into the evening. This article summarizes the primary symptoms of Sundown Syndrome in seniors and provides tips for managing the effects of Sundown Syndrome for loved ones.

Typical Behaviors Associated with Sundown Syndrome in the Elderly:

The hallmark of Sundown Syndrome in seniors is a shift in behavior associated with the late afternoon and early evening. This shift in behavior can encompass a variety of emotions, but typically caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia will report the following:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Anxiety
  • Suspicion
  • Aggression
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Wandering

Though it isn’t clear what exactly causes Sundown Syndrome, it may be triggered by a number of factors, including fatigue, hunger, low-lighting, depression, boredom, or a disruption of their “inner clock.”

Tips for Managing the Effects of Sundown Syndrome:

Though managing the effects of Sundown Syndrome in seniors can be challenging, there are several strategies caregivers can employ to avoid and reduce its effects:

  1. Maintain Regular and Comfortable Routines: For patients with dementia, familiarity is key. Often, patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s will forget where they are or become disturbed if they are away from things they find comforting. Try to keep them in a familiar location, but if they need to change their living situation, make sure they have cherished items with them, like family photos or a specific pillow or blanket. Additionally, by maintaining a routine, you are making sure their days are predictable helping seniors feel more familiar with their surroundings.
  2. Ease the Nighttime Transition: One of the possible triggers for Sundown Syndrome is the shift to evening, potentially aggravated by lower light levels. To help delay or prevent Sundown Syndrome as the evening starts, try adjusting the levels of light in your home in the early evening. Additionally, focus on reducing the number of stressors in the evening, keeping a routine that is simple and easy, perhaps listening to soft music, spending time with a pet, or looking at photographs.
  3. Get Regular Exercise: Most seniors with Sundown Syndrome have trouble sleeping at night, which may exacerbate their discomfort, confusion, and mood swings when it occurs. Regular exercise is a great way to promote a good night’s rest. By staying active throughout the day with activities like a small neighborhood walk, or a stroll around the park, seniors will be exposed to natural light, maintain mobility, and will be more likely to have more restful sleep.

In Conclusion:

Sundown Syndrome is hard for both elderly seniors and their families, making the daily transition to nighttime difficult with added confusion, paranoia, and other mood shifts. While Sundown Syndrome may have a variety of triggers depending on the patient, there are strategies caregivers can employ to reduce the likelihood of an episode. By keeping a predictable and comfortable evening routine, adjusting light levels in advance of the evening, reducing stressors, and encouraging regular exercise, seniors can hopefully find a more restful night’s sleep and more relaxed evening routine.

Allcare Home Health caregivers are trained in caring for seniors with Alzheimer’s type dementia and can offer assistance to family caregivers who need help. Contact us or call (919) 301-0236 for more information.

References:
What is Sundown Syndrome In Seniors?

Person-Centered Care for Sundown Syndrome – Springer Link