Sundowning is a condition that affects many people as they age. It can be challenging to deal with for the person experiencing it and their loved ones. Symptoms can vary depending on the individual, ranging from restlessness and agitation to confusion and disorientation. This article will discuss some signs of sundowning and how to best deal with them to help you better prepare. If you or someone you know is struggling with sundowning, please seek medical help immediately.
What Is Sundowning?
Sundowning is a phenomenon that is often associated with dementia. It is an increase in confusion and agitation in the late afternoon or early evening. While the exact cause of sundowning is unknown, it is related to changes in the body’s circadian rhythms. Sundowning can be very distressing for both patients and caregivers.
While there is no cure for sundowning, there are ways to manage the symptoms. This may include providing a calm environment, avoiding overstimulation, and establishing a routine. Sundowning can be a challenging condition to deal with, but with proper support, patients can still enjoy a good quality of life.
The Different Signs Of Sundowning
Even for those who understand the condition, it can be challenging to spot the signs of sundowning. However, here are some common symptoms to look out for:
One of the most common symptoms of sundowning is restlessness. As the day goes on, patients may become more and more agitated until they are pacing back and forth or in circles. They may also become more vocal, making it difficult for caregivers to get a break. While this increase in activity may seem random, it is a sign that the patient is starting to experience sundowning.
In the early stages, some restlessness may be able to be managed with simple distraction techniques. For example, this could involve playing calming music or redirecting their attention toward a calm activity, such as coloring or knitting. However, if the restlessness becomes too overwhelming, it may be necessary to seek medical help to manage the symptoms further.
For many people with dementia, sundowning can be a frustrating and distressing experience. In some cases, it may even lead to aggression. And unfortunately, there are several possible explanations for why sundowning may lead to aggression. For one thing, the increased confusion and anxiety accompanying sundowning can lead to frustration and helplessness. In addition, sundowning can also cause physical discomfort, such as headaches or dizziness, which can contribute to feelings of irritability.
Finally, sundowning can also disrupt sleep, making people tired and cranky the next day. All these factors can combine to make people with dementia more likely to lash out in anger. While aggressiveness is a sign of sundowning, it is important to remember that not all people with dementia will experience this symptom.
If you have ever spent time with someone who has difficulty controlling their emotions, then you may be able to recognize mood swings as one sign of sundowning. People with the condition may suddenly become angry or upset for no reason. They may also experience periods of euphoria or depression. This can make it difficult for caregivers to predict how the person will react in certain situations, leading to confusion and frustration. Sundowning may also cause a sudden change in appetite, leading to sudden mood swings related to hunger or cravings.
It is important to have a plan in place for handling periods of sudden mood changes, whether that be redirecting the person’s attention or seeking medical help. It is also vital to ensure that the person gets regular meals and snacks throughout the day to prevent sudden drops in blood sugar levels.
Another sign that can be difficult to manage is confusion. People with sundowning may struggle to remember simple tasks or even who they are. They may also struggle with spatial awareness, frequently getting lost. In some cases, the confusion can make the person suffering from the condition believe they are in a different time or place. These episodes of confusion can be very distressing and may even lead to paranoid behavior.
It is important to maintain a calm environment and establish a routine for the person to help manage confusion. This can help provide structure and familiarity, making them feel more secure.
Similar to confusion, disorientation is another common symptom of sundowning. It can manifest as getting lost in familiar places or not recognizing loved ones. People with sundowning may also struggle to tell the difference between night and day, leading them to become active at unusual hours. For instance, it is not uncommon for someone with sundowning to wander outside in the middle of the night, which can make this symptom particularly hazardous.
You can often manage disorientation by keeping the person with dementia in a familiar, secure environment and providing them with visual cues to help orient themselves, such as a clock or pictures of loved ones. However, it is important to have safety measures in place, such as alarms on doors or bed rails, to prevent wandering.
Sleep disturbances can also signify sundowning, with people experiencing insomnia or waking up frequently at night. In addition, their sleep may become more fragmented as the sun sets, leading to restless tossing and turning. This can be concerning for caregivers, as sleep is important for physical and cognitive health. And for those experiencing other symptoms along with sleep disturbances, such as aggression or confusion, it can make managing sundowning even more challenging.
Luckily, there are a few potential strategies for addressing sleep disturbances in cases of sundowning. It can be helpful to establish a calm bedtime routine, reducing stimulation before going to bed and avoiding caffeine during the evening. Sometimes, a doctor may also prescribe medications to help with sleep. However, speaking with a doctor before starting any new medications for sundowning symptoms is essential.
One potentially scary of this condition is hallucinations, which may involve seeing or hearing things that are not there. This can be very distressing for the person experiencing it and those around them. However, it is important to remember that these hallucinations are not a sign of insanity but rather a symptom of sundowning caused by changes in brain chemistry. While there is no exact science as to why this may be happening, changes in light levels and fatigue can trigger these episodes.
If hallucinations occur, it is important to remain calm and redirect the person’s attention. In some cases, doctors may also prescribe medications to help with this symptom. However, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new medicine for sundowning.
Be Aware Of The Signs Of Sundowning
Sundowning is a common symptom of dementia, affecting as many as 60-70% of people with the condition. Therefore, it is crucial to be aware of its potential signs and some of the minor changes you can make to attempt to manage them. While there is no cure for the condition, you may be able to alleviate some of its symptoms and improve the person’s quality of life. However, it is important to seek help from healthcare professionals if you ever feel like the condition is worsening. The last thing you want is for the person to experience unnecessary distress or become a safety concern.