Living with Alzheimer’s can be a challenge for the entire family. Whether your family has professional Alzheimer’s care assistance or if you are caring for your loved one alone, it can seem as if each day is full of new challenges and developments.
One of the things that makes Alzheimer’s care so challenging is that those living with the disease can have different needs at different times of the day. Late afternoon and early evening can be especially hard for those who experience Sundowner’s Syndrome.
What is Sundowner’s Syndrome?
It is a change in behavior, temperament, or personality that occurs in the late afternoon or early evening. This occurrence is also known as “sundown syndrome” or “sundowners” or “sundowning.”
Experts cite that 1 out of 5 people in need of Alzheimer’s care suffer from Sundowner’s Syndrome. Doctors do not really know what causes the sundowning behavior. However, the part of the brain that tells you if you are awake or asleep breaks down in Alzheimer’s patients. Some scientists think these neurological changes affect the inner body clock.
Sundowning can manifest in several ways. Your loved one may become:
They may even yell or pace around the room, sometimes hearing or seeing things that are not there. They could exhibit mood swings. These behaviors can become progressively worse and can range in duration from a short time to the entire night.
Suggestions for Managing Sundowner’s Syndrome
As a family caregiver, you will need to demonstrate flexibility and empathy to help your loved one feel as peaceful as possible.
Take careful notice of events that trigger the behavior. Does the evening news instigate agitation? Is the late afternoon a time of significant activity in your home? Anything that disturbs the normal order of the day could prompt a behavioral change. Nutritional triggers can also stimulate behavior. Assess and possibly limit caffeine, sugar, and alcohol intake.
If this is their new reality, you must endeavor to understand it. Don’t rail against them, but calm them with activities, music, or television shows they enjoy. It will divert their attention from troubling thoughts yet soothe them with the familiar things they love.
In addition to natural light, the use of bright lights in the room during the day will ward off the evening shadows and maintain the daytime glow until it is time for bed.
Adjust their sleep environment to one that is welcoming and serene. Light-blocking curtains can create a cocoon-like setting that encourages a restful night’s sleep.
Check with your loved one’s doctor* about natural supplements and discuss the possibility of recommending anti-anxiety and even anti-depressant meds. Use caution when purchasing anything over the counter unless the doctor has confirmed there is no interference with already prescribed medications.
Finally, try to have patience. It may take a little time to figure out what combination of solutions works for your loved one. When it comes to Alzheimer’s Care, everyone is different. If you need us, we are here to help.
Together with your family, we will give your loved one all the respect and love they deserve with the finest in Alzheimer’s care. To request a free in-home consultation, and find out more about our caregiver services, contact us today.
Article provided by Bob Dailey, Executive Director and Owner of Visiting Angels/Mesa. Mr. Dailey is a Member of the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, and he and his company have a Featured Listing on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources to help families plan for and deal with the issues of Aging.
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