Understanding Sundowner’s Syndrome in People with Dementia

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.

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