Sudden changes in behavior in seniors with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, regularly occurring between the afternoon and evening hours, is referred to as sundown syndrome, or sundowner’s.
While the exact cause for sundown syndrome is unknown, there are ways that you or your senior’s caregivers can help to ease the symptoms of sundowner's in your loved one’s life.
1. Restrict daytime sleeping. If your senior parent receiving care in their home has a habit of sleeping during daytime hours, you or their caregivers may start to notice that they are having more difficulty sleeping at night. Try and prevent them from napping during the day so that they can be ready to sleep when the evening comes.
2. Maintain regular routines. Having a familiar routine that your senior parent can count on may help reduce some of the confusion they experience. Keeping activity higher in the mornings may help to tire them out so that as the evening approaches, they will be more likely to be able to sleep and unwind.
3. Light exposure. Instructing caregivers to open the blinds, curtains, or shades during daytime hours can help your senior to recognize that it’s daytime and regulate their internal clock. You can also request that their caregivers take them outside for some fresh air and sunshine during the morning hours before it’s too hot.
4. Talk about medications. Some medications can actually increase symptoms of sundowners as they wear off for the day, but there are also medicines that can be prescribed by your senior parent’s doctor that can help alleviate some symptoms of the disorder. Talk with their health care provider about how medications might play a role in your senior’s symptoms.
5. Avoid known triggers. If you notice that certain situations or circumstances can trigger the onset of sundowner’s symptoms in your loved one, try to reduce or avoid those things. Pay attention to the time of day and any particular things that may be causing your senior issues, such as the television or other noises, eating dinner at a different time, or an unexpected phone call as examples.
6. Physical activity. Having an exercise routine is a good way to give your senior something to do, help with range of motion and weight control, and as an added benefit, may enable them to sleep easier at night.
7. Reduce noise and people. Caregivers might notice that symptoms worsen with an increase in noise or number of people present with your senior. Limit noise and visitors during hours when your parent is most likely to experience agitation or other symptoms of the disorder.
8. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Coffee, soda, and other items containing caffeine should be avoided later in the day or evening to help regulate sleep patterns. Alcohol can also add to a person’s confusion, so it may be best to steer clear of that as well.
9. Try soothing activities. Calming music, games that they enjoy such as word puzzles or cards, and guided meditations are all ways to help distract your senior and get them into a peaceful state of mind.
10. Seek medical advice. If these tips aren’t helping your senior, or they are experiencing sudden and disturbing symptoms, check with their medical provider to rule out other conditions with symptoms that may mimic those of sundowner’s and to discuss other options for treatment.
IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING CAREGIVERS IN CAREGIVERS IN THE NEAR NORTH, IL FOR AN AGING LOVED ONE, PLEASE CONTACT THE CARING STAFF AT BRIGHTSTAR CARE CHICAGO. CALL TODAY: 312.382.8888.