What is Sundowner’s Syndrome?



Here is an explanation and tips for managing this little-understood syndrome.

When giving care to an aging parent with dementia or Alzheimer’s, some care givers notice mood changes concurrent with sundown – thus the name Sundowner’s Syndrome. But what is Sundowner’s Syndrome?

ParentGiving.com is an online resource for elder care. They published an article with this explanation:

“Sundowner’s Syndrome (also known as sundowning) is a condition that occurs in the late afternoon or early evening when the sun goes down — generally between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. It is not a separate disease but is one of the symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the Sundowner’s Syndrome involves confusion, disorientation, agitation, anger, depression, restlessness, paranoia and mood swings. Some of the behaviors may include wandering, rocking, crying, pacing, hiding things and acting out aggressively.”

Read the full article here.  

SeniorsHomeCare.com explains that care givers should monitor their aging parent who suffers from Sundowner’s Syndrome to see if pain or other discomforts contribute to the agitation. Beyond pain and discomfort, consider these possible triggers:

    • “End-of-day activity (at a care facility). Some researchers believe the flurry of activity toward the end of the day as the facility’s staff changes shifts may lead to anxiety and confusion.
    • Fatigue. End-of-day exhaustion or suddenly the lack of activity after the dinner hour may also be a contributor. Seniors may loose their desire to clean up the dishes or put leftover food away following a meal. Assistance with meal preparation is important.
    • Low light. As the sun goes down the quality of available light may diminish, and shadows may increase, making already challenged vision even more challenging. If a person is living at home alone with little interaction, they can become easily confused. Regular, frequent home care visits can help a person stay on a schedule.
    • Winter. In some cases, the onset of winter’s shorter days exacerbates sundowning. This effect indicates sundowning may have a correlation with Seasonal Affective Disorder, a common depression caused be less exposure to natural light.”

SeniorsHomeCare.com encourages you, the care giver, to:

“To work towards limiting the amount of sundowning a person experiences, you may:

  • Set a routine. A routine is a good way to make things feel more familiar to a person with dementia or confusion. You should experience less resistance due to the fact that the person feels like they should be doing what is routine.
  • Limit outside distractions. If your loved one is living in a facility, do your best to reduce the amount of noise and unpleasant odors. Individual rooms or moving to another floor can make an enormous difference in a person’s outlook on life.
  • Diet. Large fluctuations in sugar and caffeine can be a bad thing. Try to do your best to limit the amount of caffeine or sugar that your loved one is eating. Even though a piece of cake or pie at the end of the day is what many seniors look forward to, limiting the number of pieces they eat may be helpful.”

See the full article here.   

Learning about what Sundowner’s Syndrome is can equip you to address the topic more successfully. Visit our website to understand more about the varied aspects of caring for your aging parents.

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