Helping Seniors Through Sundowners Syndrome

Seniors go through many transitions as they age, especially if they struggle with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. One of those transitions is called Sundowners Syndrome, a common pattern of mood swings that occurs in the evening for some memory care patients. The effects of Sundowners Syndrome can devastate both affected seniors and their families, but there is hope! Read more to learn some tips and tricks for helping seniors through sundowners syndrome. 

Signs of Sundowners Syndrome

Sundowners syndrome can be hard to diagnose because its symptoms can also be a sign of other health and aging-related issues. However, some of these signs, especially in the afternoon, point to someone who may be experiencing sundowners:

  • More irritability, confusion, anxiety, or aggressive behavior in the afternoon or evening
  • More energy at night that disrupts a normal sleeping pattern
  • Visual hallucinations.
  • Difficulty speaking and thinking clearly later in the day

Household Tips for Sundowners Syndrome

Did these signs and symptoms of Sundowners Syndrome fit a senior in your life? If you said yes, it’s a good idea to reach out to a medical professional for a true diagnosis. In the meantime, however, here are some adjustments you can make to build a happier emotional home for sundowning seniors:

  • Keep household lighting consistent and bright all day, especially as the sun begins to set! Even at bedtime, keep lowlights on so seniors will not be confused by their surroundings if they wake up.
  • Speak to seniors calmly and kindly. Many aggressive episodes are triggered when caregivers speak to sundowning seniors in a frustrated or thoughtless tone.
  • Remove safety hazards where possible. This would include removing rugs that seniors can trip on and locking up kitchen utensils at night.
  • Set a consistent schedule. Sundowning seniors are often triggered by abrupt schedule changes, so try to keep a routine! This routine should avoid afternoon naps, which disrupt the sundowning senior’s sleep schedule.

Treatments for Sundowners Syndrome

Changing your household habits may be enough to help a senior with Sundowners Syndrome, but some require more treatment. No matter what, seek out the diagnosis and advice of a medical professional! They will tell you if one of the following is right for the senior in your life:

  • Melatonin helps with a more natural approach to sleep for many sundowning seniors.
  • Light therapy for a couple of hours each morning helps some seniors to have fewer sundowning episodes.
  • Antipsychotic medications can cause other health problems for seniors, but have helped some seniors to manage their sundowning symptoms.

(Medical News Today)

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