If your parent has Alzheimer’s disease, there could be a possibility that they might develop Sundown syndrome. Doctors aren’t sure why this syndrome happens but think it may do with changes in the brain. The cause may be because the inner body clock is affected. The body clock is what signals your brain that it’s time to go to sleep or to wake up. In a person that has Alzheimer’s, sometimes this trigger breaks down.
Signs of sundowning
Signs of sundowning show up in the late afternoon and early evening. Sundowning may show up as increased anxiety or confusion. It can show up too as odd behaviors such as wandering, yelling, or pacing. Trying to find what is causing the behavior sometimes helps to calm the person down. If your parent does become agitated, listen calmly to figure out what is frustrating or concerning them. Try to distract your parent from whatever is stressing or upsetting them and reassure them that they’re okay.
Triggers for sundowning
Sometimes what’s going on in the environment around a person can set off an episode of sundowning. It could be there are more shadows in the home from not enough light which can cause fear and confusion. Or your parent may have been sleeping and can’t separate what they dreamed about from what it real.
Also, look for patterns and the causes of the patterns which trigger the behavior. Try to limit what causes those triggers or avoid them altogether. Too, try to schedule appointments, outings, any visitors in a part of the day when your parent feel their best.
Tips for avoiding sundowning
If you keep your parent on a daily routine, there is less likely of a chance of upsetting them. You can also reduce the amount of clutter, noise, and people where they are. Close the curtains or blinds when it starts to become dark. This helps to minimize any shadows and any agitation it may cause. Turning on the lights also may help as well as making the early evening a quiet time of the day.
If your parent it overtired, it can increase late afternoon and early evening restlessness. You can help with this by exposure to outside light to help reset your parent's body clock. Keep any naps short and earlier in the day rather than later. Have your parent do some physical exercise or activity. Don't give your parent alcohol, sweets or caffeine late in the day. Have your parent eat a big lunch and a smaller evening meal so they can digest everything before bedtime.
Above all, take care of yourself. If you need to take a break, have a relative fill in for you or hire a home health aide who deals with dementia patients. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of your loved one.
Living with a person who has sundowner's can be difficult, but if you can avoid the triggers, then the syndrome can be somewhat controlled.