Friday, May 16, 2014

What to Know About Sundowner’s Syndrome

While the sunset typically signals a time of relaxation for many people, for those with Alzheimer’s, quite the opposite is true. Dementia care professionals explain that it’s common for a senior with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia to become agitated, angry, or confused in the evening. Their memory may get worse, and they may become increasingly disoriented. This unique phenomenon can be devastating for the loved ones of these elderly individuals. 

The triggers of Sundowner’s Syndrome

There are many different triggers that can cause Sundowner’s Syndrome to kick into full effect. Common triggers include:

  • Winter: The shorter days of winter can cause a senior to experience Seasonal Affective Disorder, or depression that sets in when a person doesn’t get enough natural sunlight. 
  • Internal imbalances: Some scientists believe that this condition is a result of hormone issues or other disruptions to a senior’s biological clock that leave them struggling to get into natural rhythms between sleeping and waking.
  • Low light: As the sun begins to set and darkness falls, elderly individuals with poor vision may have an even harder time seeing. This can cause them to feel agitated and fearful, explain Alzheimer’s care professionals. 
  • Fatigue: Many elderly people get highly fatigued at the end of the day, often worsening their symptoms.
  • End-of-day activities at a care facility: As the day comes to a close and shifts change at nursing homes or assisted living facilities, seniors may pick up on this energy and become disoriented and stressed. 

To overcome these struggles and keep seniors feeling safe and calm, the leading senior health professionals in Durham advise controlling noise. Keep televisions and radios to a minimum, and make sure that noise-generating activities are done as far from the elderly individual as possible. This helps to promote an atmosphere of peace and relaxation. 

Additionally, create a calming evening routine for your elderly loved one. This routine prevents surprises and can keep agitation levels to a minimum, as they know what to expect. Also discourage napping, as this can make it harder for your senior to fall asleep at night and can disturb the body’s natural rhythms. 

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