Sundowning Affects on Seniors with Dementia
Perhaps you have noticed an increase in confusion, anxiety, or even aggression near the end of the day while caring for an aging family member with dementia. Sundowning is a term for a specific type of confusion late in the day, even in people who operate normally during the day.
Symptoms of sundowning can include anxiety, sadness, confusion and/or irritation. Sundowning often causes individuals to pace their homes or start wandering. In addition, they may not follow directions or have difficulty communicating. Symptoms of sundowning are common among individuals with dementia or another form of cognitive impairment, but they are not a disease in themselves.
How does sundowning occur?
The exact cause of sundowning is unknown, but medical experts believe it is triggered by a combination of factors including lack of sunlight, disruption to a person's internal clock, fatigue at the end of the day, unfamiliar settings, among others. Sundowning can also be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI), which should be evaluated by a medical professional.
Sundowning: reducing its impact
The occurrence of sundowning is not uncommon, even though it is challenging and often upsetting for loved ones to witness. Alzheimer's Disease patients in the middle stages are particularly susceptible to this phenomenon, but anyone with dementia can experience it. Seniors and their caregivers can enjoy a healthier, happier life by reducing the signs and frequency of this condition.
Keeping a consistent daily routine and sleep schedule can often alleviate the symptoms of sundowning. An afternoon nap can disrupt a senior's sleep pattern and exacerbate the effects of sundowning, especially if napping is not part of the senior's daily schedule.
You may also be able to reduce sundowning by limiting caffeine and sugar consumption, avoiding unfamiliar surroundings late in the afternoon or evening, and reducing overstimulating sounds (such as loud music or television). In addition, it's best for a senior to be active and exposed to sunlight or brightly lit spaces during the day, and sleep in a dark place at night. This routine works best if it is reliable.
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