Memory Care

Understanding Sundowner’s Syndrome

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Memory Care

Memory Care

It is common for seniors suffering from dementia to experience agitation and confusion in the evening. Senior living experts in our memory care facility discuss the things that you should understand about this problem.

What Is Sundowner’s Syndrome?

Sundowner’s syndrome is experienced when a person becomes confused, agitated and more active with sunset. The problem is commonly observed in people suffering from dementia disorders and can lead to personality changes, memory issues and mood swings. Though sundowner’s syndrome is not a disease, it is a serious problem and can affect the quality of life of the patient and their caregiver. Sundowner’s syndrome is characterized by a group of symptoms that mainly affect people suffering from cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s.

What Causes Sundowner’s Syndrome?

As said above, sundowner’s syndrome commonly affects people suffering from dementia disorders, especially Alzheimer’s. People with dementia disorders spend much energy getting through the day and by evening, they will be physically and mentally exhausted. In addition, dementia can lead to confusion and problems with reasoning. As per memory care experts, the internal clock can be unregulated in people suffering from dementia disorders and they will have a difficult time differentiating between day and night. This combination of events can disrupt the sleep cycle of the person and can lead to Sundowner’s syndrome.

Apart from that, some other events can also trigger Sundowner’s syndrome. These are:

  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Reduced lighting and presence of shadows
  • New medications
  • Being moved to unfamiliar locations like a healthcare facility
  • Family members visiting in the evening

What Are The Risk Factors Of Sundowner’s Syndrome?

Senior living experts say that not all dementia patients experience Sundowner’s syndrome. There are some risk factors to watch out for, the primary one being Alzheimer’s disease. As per the results of many studies, about twenty percent of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease will experience behavioral and personality changes, confusion, agitation and distress in the evening. There are also other risk factors including:

  • History of drug or alcohol abuse
  • Caregiver being exhausted and giving verbal or non-verbal cues as such
  • Changes in sleeping patterns, including waking up at different times and lack of sleep
  • Very high stress levels, often caused by doctor visits or other uncommon events
  • Difficulty differentiating dreams and reality

What Are The Symptoms Of Sundowner’s Syndrome?

Usually, people with Sundowner’s syndrome will experience symptoms between 5 PM and 11 PM. Unlike winding down like others, Sundowner’s syndrome causes the person to be more aware, irritable and agitated. Other symptoms include:

  • Pacing and wandering
  • Trouble thinking and speaking
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion, being unable to identify familiar places and people
  • Various sleeping issues, including insomnia
  • Changes in behavior without triggers
  • Hallucinations
  • Aggressive behavior

Sundowner’s syndrome is relatively common among people suffering from dementia disorders. While it can be unpleasant for the person experiencing the syndrome, and their caregivers, there are a few things that you can do to cope with the problem, avoid the symptoms and reduce the level of anxiety of your loved one.

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