Sundowning or Sundown Syndrome affects some people who have a form of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. This happens around sundown when these folks get confused and agitated and it can sometimes last to the night. It can prevent those with dementia from sleeping well and I can make them more likely to wander putting stress on caregivers.
Sundowners syndrome happens to nearly 20% of all Alzheimer’s patients. They may be feel more forgetful, confused, agitated, anxious and restless during this time. They may pace the floor, become combative or yell.
Sundowning is typically caused by a cluster of nerves that keeps the body on a 24 hour clock. Chemical changes in the brain due to Alzheimer’s or dementia could cause these patients to receive a different chemical changes during sundown. These symptoms can increase if the patient feels pain, has suffered poor nourishment, may have severe constipation, excessive medications, infection or disrupted sleep.
The best way to combat this type of symptom is to create more activity for the patient during the day and provide a healthy diet. Limiting caffeine and sugar during the morning and planning an early dinner can help put the patient more in line for an easier bedtime. Encouraging exercises and discouraging daytime naps may also help.
Sticking to a schedule is also very helpful or for those suffering from sundowners syndrome. Try to avoid making any changes in a daily routine and keep the the room bright and light around sundown so that the body is not tricked into thinking the sun is going down and it is nighttime.
A healthy memory care facility also can ease stress on this type of patient and eventually provide comfort and familiarity. Patients in a memory care facility will often times have caregivers that will make note of triggers for a sundowner syndrome patient. Keeping a journal of these activities prior to the event can prevent a lot of the symptoms from spiking around sundown.