Managing Sundowner’s Syndrome

Those with Dementia or Alzheimer’s tend to suffer from a syndrome called Sundowner’s Syndrome. As the name implies the symptoms appear in the late afternoon and evening for some, for others not until the sun has completely set.  Medical science has never been able to come up with a physiological or psychological reason for it to occur, but they have developed several theories as to why the symptoms only begin at night. There are continuing studies into the causes and potential treatments for Sundowner’s Syndrome but there still is no conclusive evidence to why it occurs.

Sundowner’s symptoms appear in most cases in the evening or after dark.  However, not everyone who has Dementia or Alzheimer’s suffer from Sundowner’s syndrome. Some people have symptoms of Dementia and Alzheimer’s symptoms all day, but they seem to get worse only in the late afternoon or evening.  Still other do not show any exaggeration of symptoms until it is completely dark.  It seems as though there is no set time of onset of Sundowner’s, it varies for everyone that has it, and does not affect others at all. There are numerous theories doctors have proposed to come up with some explanation of why Sundowner’s occurs. Some think all the sensory stimulation from the day overloads at the end of the day, causing stress, while others think it is some type of hormonal imbalance that only occurs after a person with Alzheimer’s or Dementia has been awake for a certain number of hours. It may be caused simply by fatigue, as people with Alzheimer’s and Dementia almost have to think twice as much as everyone else due to their memory loss. Simply put, the best answer is that all they know is they do not know what causes it. Much like Dementia and Alzheimer’s, Sundowner’s remains a medical mystery.

Alzheimer’s disease is actually only one of almost 70 conditions that are a form of Dementia. There are things they have in common, such as they generally start as a mild memory loss, that can be simply attributed to stress or aging, and can largely be ignored. When the symptoms progress from simple memory loss to more concerning issues over time, then some form of Dementia is usually the cause. Dementia affects a person’s ability to logically decipher situations. This can lead to them being a danger to themselves in many different ways. At first, it is somewhat mild, but progresses, at different rates with everyone. You need to pay attention to any patterns in behavior during the day or evening. You need to take special consideration if their behavior changes after a certain event, visit or other activity.  Repeated irritability whether it is with family members or other people, physical discomfort may be the cause. Try to ask simple yes or no questions, but if you cannot get them to respond appropriately, you may want to schedule an appointment with their doctor just to cover all the bases.

Those with Dementia and Alzheimer’s can benefit from familiar surroundings.  Being able to keep them in their own home can sometimes keep their symptoms from progressing as rapidly, as they are not being subjected to new stimulus that a nursing home may have. Having homecare for your parent or loved one is one way to be able to keep them in their own home and perhaps slow the progression of their Alzheimer’s or Dementia symptoms, as well as possibly keep away some of the signs of Sundowner’s syndrome. An experienced homecare provider is familiar with the behavior of those with Dementia and Sundowner’s and can provide the positive redirection they need to keep calm and not become frustrated and angry. They can also provide extra safety, as wandering is one of the most common symptoms of Sundowner’s, and with a homecare provider with them, they can secure the home and find distractions for those that seem to want to wander. The care they provide can also give you needed respite time away from a parent or loved one.

If you are looking for a home care provider for your parent or loved one who needs assistance or a caregiver due to Alzheimer’s or any other form of Dementia, Carefect homecare services provides non-medical in-home senior care. We provide services such as housekeeping and personal care, as well as meal preparation and help with physical activities from exercise to getting around the house. Our caregivers can provide the needed safety measures if you have someone that has a history of wandering away from home. Carefect homecare services offers a free in home assessment that allows you and your parent or loved one to discuss the options and services that can be provided for them. The Carefect team is available to provide your parent or loved on with the care they need, as well as peace of mind for you knowing they are being well cared for.