Sundowner Syndrome, also known as “late-day confusion,” is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. As the name presumes, those with Sundowner Syndrome experience symptoms in the late afternoon and evening, as opposed to earlier in the day.
Signs of Sundowning include behaviors such as confusion, aggression, anxiety, pacing, and wandering. While the specific cause is unknown, factors that trigger Sundowner Syndrome include low lighting, fatigue, increased shadows, infections, and difficulty separating dreams from reality.
As caregivers or family members of loved ones with Sundowner Syndrome, it can be difficult to provide support without the proper knowledge on how to do so. Below we’ve provided 5 tips on how you can help your loved one manage Sundowner Syndrome:
- Encourage a Routine – Sticking to a consistent routine helps reduce stress, anxiety, and other Sundowner symptoms. By creating normalcy and similar schedules each day, your loved ones are most likely to feel safe and secure in their environments, thus allowing them to get better rest and relaxation during the evening and nighttime hours when symptoms are often at their worst.
- Stay Active – In addition to a consistent routine, keep your loved one active and exposed to light by planning activities in the morning to encourage a relaxed afternoon and nighttime. Most Sundowner Syndrome experts say that caregivers should aim for two activities per day. It is best to avoid daytime napping, as this may prevent nighttime sleepiness.
- Eating Patterns – Keep an eye on your loved one’s eating habits. A healthy diet is essential in order to decrease symptoms of Sundowners Syndrome. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as these can lead to agitation, anxiety, and prevention of a good night’s sleep. Also avoid large meals close to bedtime, as this can also lead to lack of decent sleep.
- Encourage Calming Environments – As we’ve learned by now, anxiety and stress are major inducers of Sundowner’s Syndrome, so it’s important to keep your loved one relaxed and stress-free. By creating a calming environment, it will decrease symptoms and allow them to have a more peaceful schedule and avoid uncomfortable symptoms. There are several ways to create a relaxed environment including soft music, avoiding TV in the afternoon and before bed, and limiting visits from family and friends during the afternoon and evening.
- Keep it Well Lit – This is perhaps one of the most important tips for helping soothe symptoms of Sundowners. Keep your home well lit as soon as the sun begins to fade in order to avoid darkness. Keep a close eye on what time the sun starts to fade, or you can even set a timer so lights go on automatically.
Not every individual who suffers from symptoms of Sundowners is the same. By observing your loved ones, you can determine what triggers affect their symptoms the most. As a supportive family member, consult professional caregivers and a physician on how you can support your loved one and their symptoms. It’s important to remember that you can’t do this alone. Accepting help is best for both you and your loved one.