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What Is Sundowner’s Syndrome?

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Sundowner’s Syndrome is a symptom associated with Alzheimer’s and similar forms of dementia. It’s a term used to describe a common situation (affecting about 20 percent of patients with Alzheimer’s), where the confusion and agitation associated with the disease worsens in the late afternoon and evening, or during the time of day when the sun goes down.

As a leading provider of Vancouver Alzheimer’s care, we believe the best family caregivers are those that are informed. By learning what sundowner’s syndrome is, you can better prepare for the care of your aging loved one, ensuring the highest level of care, comfort and security as the disease progresses.

Causes of Sundowning

The exact cause of sundowner’s syndrome in patients isn’t fully understood. Research suggests that the condition may be related to the brain’s circadian pacemaker, or the body’s internal clock. Some studies involving mice suggest that it may be caused by changes in certain chemicals in the brain. Symptoms of sundowning may include:

  • Increased confusion
  • Restlessness and anxiousness
  • More pronounced mood swings
  • Increased forgetfulness

Contributing Factors

While sundowning doesn’t necessarily occur every day in all patients with Alzheimer’s, some contributing factors may increase the risk of experiencing sundowning symptoms, including noisy and disruptive sleep environments, severe constipation, infection and poor nourishment. In some cases, medications a patient is taking may be a contributing factor to sundowning.

Treatments for Sundowning

Treatments for sundowning have varying degrees of success based on each individual’s condition and related symptoms. Being active during the day can keep the brain active and offset some of the symptoms. A healthy diet can also help promote regular brain functioning by increasing nourishment to important nerve centers. Additional treatments for sundowning include:

  • Encouraging light exercise (like walking)
  • Restricting caffeine and sugar intakes to the mornings
  • Having early dinners (and light snacks)

There is no single “cure” for sundowning. However, there are some steps that can be taken to at least reduce occurrences of the condition. As with any symptoms related to dementia, it’s important to keep your loved one’s doctors informed of any noticeable changes in behavior.

If you provide care for a senior parent or loved one with Alzheimer’s, the later stages of the disease may cause complex symptoms such as sundowning, which can be difficult to manage without help. It is important to look into your care options which can range from part-time assistance to support a family caregiving schedule or Vancouver 24 hour care which can serve as a valuable asset to seniors who need extra monitoring, and their family members who need respite.

For more information about Alzheimer’s home care or caring for a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s, reach out to a friendly and knowledgeable Care Manager at 778-279-3634.