What is sundown syndrome?

Dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia can be extremely difficult. Many people experiencing cognitive decline related to aging often suffer from sundown syndrome, which can be challenging for caregivers when certain behaviors arise. SeniorLiving.org explains this disorder and how you can identify it in your loved one. 

Confusion is a component of many memory-related disorders. Many people experience increased agitation in the late afternoon and evening hours, with symptoms usually occurring well into the night. While there is no definable cause, certain occurrences have been known to trigger symptoms. As the light dims, the increase in shadows can confuse and agitate a person with cognitive issues. Problems with sleep schedule can also cause issues, since a person may be unable to sleep at night. Illness and fatigue are also considered contributing factors. 

While symptoms of sundown syndrome can vary, there are a set of common symptoms that many people experience. A person may be sad, angry, restless, or anxious. This may be exhibited by yelling, crying, and lashing out at caregivers and others. Violence and aggression can also occur, as can delusional thinking and hallucinations. Some seniors are also prone to wandering away from their home, which is extremely dangerous for a number of reasons.

When these symptoms present, caregivers must take the right steps to prevent behaviors from occurring. Napping during the day should be restricted since it can contribute to nighttime restlessness. Having a set schedule when it comes to meals and bedtimes is also helpful. Make sure there is ample lighting at night to prevent shadows from causing visual disturbances. Because sundowning is often associated with illnesses, ensuring the person has adequate medical care is a must. 

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