Understanding Dementia – What’s Sundown Syndrome?

While there are many difficulties associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, sundown syndrome is one about which you might not know. This is an issue that many people with dementia face and facilities for assisted living in San Diego often have some strategies for dealing with this issue.

What’s Sundown Syndrome?

In a nutshell, sundowning or sundown syndrome occurs as the sun begins to set and sometimes throughout the evening. Those who suffer from this syndrome tend to become agitated or confused when the sunlight begins to fade. Often a person can become irritable or angry as it gets dark. Sometimes a person will also become more sensitive to noise and react angrily to noises.

In addition, this syndrome often prevents people from sleeping well and they often will get up and pace back and forth. In some cases, a person will wander off, which can place them in great danger.

Common Symptoms as Night Approaches

  • Aggitation/irritability
  • Confusion
  • Sensitivity to noises
  • Sleeplessness
  • Pacing/wandering

Problems associated with sundowning tend to be at their worst in the middle stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and this problem seems to lessen as the dementia progresses.

How Assisted Living Facilities Help Those With Sundown Syndrome

At communities that provide memory care, the staff might use several strategies to help lessen the effects of sundown syndrome. They can help a resident establish a routine that ensures they are busy enough during daylight hours. Providing exercise and activities throughout the day and eliminating napping has been shown to help.

Establishing a consistent sleep routine also can help and the staff at your loved one’s community for assisted living can ensure that people are waking and settling down to sleep at a consistent time. Obviously, residents are adults. They are free to wake and sleep as they choose, but encouraging a person to wake and sleep on a schedule and providing plenty of empathy can make a huge difference.

If you are caring for a loved one with dementia or they live at a home for assisted living, it is wise to ask your loved one about their sleep preferences. Perhaps they would like to sleep with a light on or perhaps they would like to sleep elevated or have their bed moved to a specific location in the room. Sometimes sleeping on a couch or a favorite chair can be helpful and comforting.

Diet can play a helpful part in reducing the effects of sundowning, and the staff at your loved one’s facility for assisted living also can help with this process. For instance, they can encourage residents to eat dinner early and also encourage a person to not drink caffeinated beverages after lunch. Ensuring that person eats a healthy mix of foods also can improve overall health and make it easier to sleep.

Strategies to Fight Sundown Syndrome

  • Establish a routine for daytime and nighttime
  • Stay busy and active throughout the day
  • Avoid napping
  • Go to sleep at a consistent time
  • Make the sleep environment as comfortable as possible
  • Eat early and healthy
  • Avoid caffeine

It’s also wise to contact your loved one’s doctor if you or a staff member at the assisted living facility notices signs of sundown syndrome. In some cases, this can be a sign of another medical issue and if that issue can be resolved, it may lessen the effects of sundowning.

If you need help finding the right facility with memory care for you or your loved one, contact us. We can help assess your needs and find the ideal home to match.

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