Anyone who has worked in healthcare is familiar with the term “sundowning,” but family members of an aging loved one may not have heard of it. Sundowning is a term used to describe a peculiarity that occurs when a senior begins to experience symptoms of confusion and agitation later in the day or as the daylight begins to fade. Sundown Syndrome is not a diagnosis, but a description of symptoms or behaviors that generally appear in seniors living with Dementia and/or Alzheimer’s.
Sundowning symptoms may present as:
- Moaning, yelling, or screaming
- Delusions or hallucinations
- Becoming agitated and combative
These are just a few, as there is no medical definition of sundowning with certain criteria. Other unpredictable behaviors can be covered by the term as well.
As there is no actual known cause for sundowning, there is no cure, but many experts believe that sundowning occurs after an Alzheimer’s or Dementia patient has experienced sensory overload, or has exhausted themselves during the day. Also be aware of what symptoms are “regular” or common for your loved one. An acute onset of delirium or hallucinations could be effects from a potentially life-threatening illness or infection.
Some ways to alleviate or prevent potential symptoms of sundowning may include:
- Resting between periods of activity
- Keeping a regular, well-balanced diet with snacks during the day
- Allowing for time outside in the sun during the day, or keeping the rooms well-lit
- Drawing curtains in the evening
- Creating a calming atmosphere in the evenings with minimal noise and distractions
- Keeping the family aware of symptoms, and a log of tactics that do or do not work to calm down an agitated person.
Of course, in-home caregivers need to make sure they are taken care of as well. Family caregivers can find online support groups through the Alzheimer’s Association at https://www.alz.org or call their 24/7 helpline at 800.272.3900. Families may also look into local home care services for respite care, or to help your loved one stay independent in their home.
My Choice Home Care is a senior care service that serves clients in Macon, Jackson, and Haywood Counties in North Carolina. Counties served in Georgia are Rabun, Towns, and Habersham. Counties served in Upstate South Carolina are Oconee, Pickens, and Anderson. Call (828) 200-9000 to speak to someone today or contact us if you or a loved one would like to enjoy the benefits of living independently in your own home.