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Understanding Sundown Syndrome In Seniors

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Senior Living

Senior Living

In the case of several seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s or other variants of dementia, it is the sunset time that they reportedly experience confusion, memory loss, and agitation. This shift of behavior is commonly called sundowning or sundown syndrome. Healthcare experts are not yet sure of what causes the problem, but there are a few triggers to avoid. Read ahead to know more about the syndrome.

What Is Sundown Syndrome? 

Sundown syndrome or sundowning is a term used to refer to a range of unusual behaviors in seniors that occur during evening time when the daylight transitions to darkness. Typically it is seen in the early evening, but sometimes, it can also be seen in the morning. The syndrome mainly influences people distressed with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. In some cases, seniors recovering from surgeries in hospitals and other unfamiliar environments can also experience sundowning.

Symptoms Of Sundown Syndrome 

The behaviors and symptoms of sundowning can change from person to person. Some may show many symptoms at a time, whereas others may show only some of the symptoms.

Signs Of Sundowning 

The early signs and indicators of sundowning can be beguiling and easy to overlook. Besides, the symptoms can be incongruous. One evening your senior loved one may be more confused at twilight, while on the next evening, the person might be only slightly irritable. The signs and symptoms may be varying in the beginning and you might not be able to notice a pattern. Commonly observed signs of sundowning are:

  • Rapid changes in moods
  • Fear or anxiety
  • Stubbornness
  • Anger
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Shadowing others
  • Interrupting and repeating questions

As per the caregivers in senior living and assisted living facilities, the symptoms can become more severe for some people and might include:

  • Paranoia
  • Hallucination
  • Hiding things
  • Wandering
  • Violent behavior

Sundown syndrome can be temporary and it usually happens during the evening and then passes. The cause of sundowning is still unknown and experts suggest many possible triggers like exhaustion, low light, end of day activity, internal imbalance, infection, seasonal affective disorder, etc.

Can Medications Lead To Sundowning? 

Side effects of medicines might cause changes in behavior in people with dementia. For instance, medications used to treat depression, incontinence or insomnia may increase agitation in people with dementia. If your senior loved one is showing symptoms of sundown syndrome, you need to discuss their medications and side effects with a healthcare professional.

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