Sundown Syndrome

Taking Care of Seniors with Sundown Syndrome at Home

June 19, 2023 1:14 pm Published by

As our loved ones age, we may encounter behavioural changes that are least expected from them. Alzheimer’s and dementia are among the most common causes of these mood shifts.

Individuals affected by the illnesses mentioned above may also display restlessness, agitation, and irritability as the sun goes down. That is Sundown Syndrome.

Understanding Sundown Syndrome

Sundown Syndrome, also known as “sundowning” or late-day confusion, is still a mystery to doctors as there has been no data regarding its causes or treatment. It can occur at any stage of Alzheimer’s or dementia but usually peaks in the middle stages and lessens as the disease progresses.

Some theories suggest that brain changes and our circadian rhythm can be the root of Sundown syndrome. Certain medications, fatigue, unmet needs, and boredom are also possible causes of sundowning.

According to a study made by Psychiatry Investigation, Sundown syndrome refers to a collection of disruptive behaviours, such as anxiety and aggressiveness, that often begin at sundown and can prove challenging to caregivers, mainly during the night.

Caring for Sundowning Seniors: Strategies and Tips

Although there have been medical breakthroughs in slowing down Alzheimer’s disease, Sundown syndrome still happens to some people. 

Empathy, observational skills, creativity, and adaptability, are must-have traits while caring for sundowning individuals. Here are some tips to assist you in caring for your loved ones:

Validate

It will be difficult to reason with someone undergoing a sundown episode; it might only lead to unwanted yelling and arguments. Approach them kindly and use a peaceful tone when talking and giving reassurance. 

You can also validate them by allowing them to express their feelings (even when it seems absurd). Doing this would make them feel you are listening and calm them in no time. Listening may also let you identify the source of their agitation and allow you to remove it!

Build a Routine

Create and maintain a stable routine for your loved one. Set a schedule for everyday tasks like waking up, eating, and sleeping. You can also arrange their appointments, outings, and other activities according to their preferences.

Having a sense of structure can make them feel more secure and even regulate their circadian rhythm (which helps lessen sundown episodes!).

Provide Physical Activity

Seniors often need more sleep at night due to being idle throughout the day. Please encourage them to do simple exercises, especially in the early mornings and take afternoon walks, which can boost their energy and make them sleep earlier.

Also, avoid tiring them too much! Enough exercise makes them active; too much might make them sick.

Monitor Diet

Food affects our bodies a lot more than you think!

Monitor your elderly loved ones’ diet and avoid caffeine, soda, and alcoholic beverages. Minimising sugar intake also helps induce sleep and lower symptoms of Sundown syndrome.

Sundown Syndrome At Home

Create a Calm Environment

Seniors who have dementia are more sensitive to their surroundings. Create a calm and peaceful environment, starting in the four corners of your home.

Adjust lighting, especially at night. Keep your surroundings well-lit and minimise shadows. You can also play soothing instrumentals or their favourite songs to alleviate stress. You can also sing along and dance with them!

Ensure Proper Rest

Enough activities during the day should equate to proper rest throughout the night. Remember, one factor in Sundown syndrome is fatigue and sleeplessness.

Prevent it by making sure that their sleeping areas are comfortable and safe. You can also use essential oils like lavender and offer massages to increase feel-good hormones and ease tension.

Receiving Care as the Caregiver

Sundowner’s syndrome can be frustrating and stressful for the caregiver. Caring for older people who become cranky and unreasonable sometimes takes a lot of patience, especially when you live with them 24/7!

Make sure that you are taking care of yourself too. Start acknowledging that it is tiring and challenging, and don’t feel guilty just because you feel upset and overwhelmed while caring for loved ones affected by Sundown syndrome. 

Loved ones who suffer from Sundown syndrome may be aggressive to the point that they can make you feel scared. To prevent them from hurting themselves, you should take away or remove things in your home that can become weapons. You should also call for professional help if they become physically violent.

Here are other tips to take care of yourself:

Sundown syndrome is a medical phenomenon that medical professionals don’t fully understand. It usually affects people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other illnesses related to dementia. Having an open and calm mind will improve the quality of life for you and your loved one.

Try different strategies to help loved ones cope with the symptoms of Sundown syndrome. Just remember that there wouldn’t be a definite blueprint, so take chances through trial and error. 

More importantly, don’t forget to take care of yourself! Take breaks and allow yourself to breathe. Seeking professional help is also an option when things become hard to manage.

Remember that even in the presence of Sundown syndrome, the nights can become quiet too.

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