When older adults suffer from Alzheimer's disease and dementia, they will have many changes with their memory and cognition along with finding it more difficult to complete everyday tasks. For many individuals, they could grow agitated, frustrated or angry when struggling to complete these activities. Scientists do not understand what causes Alzheimer's and its associated symptoms.
One of the symptoms that afflicts patients is sundowning. The Alzheimer's Association defined sundowning as a set of behaviors that are triggered by dusk and early evening. As many as 20 percent of Alzheimer's patients can suffer from sundowning.
Researchers have yet to be able to explain what biological mechanisms are responsible for this phenomenon. Long-term caregivers need to be aware of the symptoms and how to combat them to keep their patients feeling their best.
The symptoms of sundowning
Seniors can become confused as the sun goes down. If they don't remember where they are, they may attempt to self-soothe by pacing or attempt to leave. This can lead to aggressive outbursts. In addition, patients can become disoriented by the low light and misinterpret shadows.
How to manage sundowning
While sundowning may be unavoidable with patients, there are ways to manage it. Maintaining familiarity and routine is one way to help. In addition, scientists believe that changes to seniors' circadian rhythms may contribute to sundowning. It is critical that seniors avoid napping during the day and avoid caffeine in the evening, which could disrupt their normal sleep patterns.
As the Mayo Clinic noted, when evening approaches, seniors may try to leave if they see long-term care staff leaving. Providing them with an activity to distract them may help them stay calm. While some caregivers include medical treatment to manage sundowning, others have found that giving patients soothing music can fend off panic.
Staying active can also tire patients out and make it easier to relax in the evening. Exercising in the morning or engaging in a stimulating mental activity in the evening can help them relax.
Sundowning can be stressful for patients' families as well. They may try to reason with patients or stop them from panicking. If caregivers are concerned that sundowning symptoms are worsening, they can track behaviors daily and look for patterns.
Sundowning may be an unavoidable part of Alzheimer's – but long-term caregivers can help families manage it. Let Mariposa Training help you with classes like "Dementia and Delirium: Diagnosis, Misdiagnosis and What We NEED To Know." Click here to learn more.