Understanding Sundowner’s Syndrome in People with Dementia

Posted by in Mind and Spirit.

Get information on the mysterious effects of sundowner’s syndrome. Learn about symptoms and sundowner’s syndrome treatment possibilities with Senior Lifestyle.

Sundowner’s syndrome can be quite a shocking phenomenon for both those who suffer from it and those who care for a victim of it alike. The condition, though its existence is still widely acknowledged, still remains somewhat of a mystery to the medical community, with its exact causes remaining unknown. Therefore, as with dementia and other conditions associated with it, sundowner’s syndrome treatment continues to be elusive. However, with a little bit of patience, understanding, and guidance, sundowner’s syndrome effects can potentially be lessened to the benefit of everyone involved.

For those who may be unfamiliar, sundowner’s syndrome—also known as sundown syndrome or simply sundowning—is not a disease in its own right, but rather a distinct phenomenon or pattern of symptoms that can occur in people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. Those who suffer from sundowner’s syndrome typically experience symptoms around sunset or at night, thus giving the syndrome its name. Symptoms of sundowner’s syndrome include agitation, restlessness, irritability, confusion, anger. Hallucinations are sometimes reported as well, along with sharp mood swings and pacing.

What causes these symptoms? While, as previously stated, the exact causes of sundowner’s syndrome still remain a bit of a mystery for the medical field, scientists have associated it with a disruption of the circadian rhythm (your biological clock) along with various environmental and social factors. According to the Mayo Clinic, things that may exacerbate the effects of sundowner’s syndrome include fatigue, low lighting, and increased shadows, among other factors.

Because the causes of sundowner’s syndrome are still unknown, a consistent sundowner’s syndrome treatment has yet to be established. However, tips typically offered by doctors to mediate the effects of sundowning include:
• The maintenance of a routine and schedule, especially for sleep
• Keeping your home well-lit in the evening
• Avoiding caffeine and sugar consumption in the afternoon and evening
• Encouraging daytime activity and avoid afternoon napping to maintain a regular sleep schedule.

Just as with the types of dementia that cause sundowner’s syndrome, more effective treatment methods will become available as more is learned about this disease. Until then, caregivers are encouraged to main an open dialogue with all caregivers that are involved, whether that is a sundowner’s doctor, nurse, or memory care provider. By paying attention to the specific sundowning triggers and establishing a strong system of support and communication, some of the frustrations and hardships of dealing with the peculiarities of sundowner’s syndrome can be minimized for the better of all involved.

Preventing Pneumonia in the Elderly

Posted by in Health and Fitness.

Learn about the specific risks for pneumonia in elderly adults. Senior Lifestyle discusses tips for preventing pneumonia in the elderly.

The name pneumonia may be familiar to many, but plenty may not fully understand the true extent of this disease’s danger. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about one million people each year seek hospital care because they have contracted pneumonia. Pneumonia in the elderly is both common and dangerous. Along with children under the age of 5 and those who smoke or have medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease, senior adults are more likely than most to contract pneumonia. Through an understanding of the infection itself and a look at prevention methods, you can better protect yourself from becoming ill with pneumonia.

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection that affects one or both lungs. Typically it is caused when bacteria, fungi, or viruses enter the lungs and cause inflammation within air sacs in your lungs called alveoli. This inflammation may cause the alveoli to fill with fluid, which can cause difficulty breathing as well as a fever. Common causes of pneumonia include a bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae and viruses such as the flu. While pneumonia can be contagious and contracted from these viruses and bacteria, pneumonia in elderly population is often contracted through other means.

Why is pneumonia in the elderly more common?
For one, older adults more often lack the strength to clear secretions from the lungs and respiratory tract that can hold germs. These bacteria can end up in the lungs air sacs and cause infections. Furthermore, seniors are more likely to have weakened immune systems which may render them incapable of fighting off some infections.

How can pneumonia in the elderly be prevented?
The most important step to take towards preventing pneumonia in elderly adults is vaccination. Even if vaccination on occasion does not fully prevent the pneumonia, it still tends to lessen the severity of the pneumonia, shorten the time that the infection lasts, and helps prevent severe—and potentially dangerous—complications caused by pneumonia. There are several vaccines that can help prevent pneumonia, many of which are received when one is young, like the Measles and Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccines. However, the CDC recommends that all older adults receive 2 pneumococcal vaccines to help prevent bacterial pneumonia in the elderly. Getting an annual flu vaccine can also support this prevention, as many people who get the flu also get pneumonia.

Additionally, you should maintain typical approaches to good health and hygiene, like regularly washing hands with soap and water, quitting smoking, getting adequate rest and exercise, and keeping a healthy, well-balanced diet.

As stated by the CDC, many people are needlessly affected by pneumonia infections each year, because these infections are preventable. Spread the word and follow the above advice to help prevent pneumonia in the elderly and assist in staying healthy yourself.