“Sundowners” is also known as “Sundowning”, “Sundown Syndrome” & “Sundowner’s”…
Who develops Sundowners?
It’s estimated that as many as 20% of those with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia experience Sundowners. In the United States, this may be as many as one million people if you consider that roughly 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer’s.
What is Sundowners?
Sundowners is best described as a state of confusion and distress at “sundown” or when daylight fades into darkness.
As you might expect, it manifests in different ways depending upon the individual. Some older adults begin to shadow their caretaker around the home or facility while others may become fixated on leaving where they are making them more prone to wandering. In extreme cases, people experiencing Sundowners can become paranoid and begin hiding things. Violence toward a caretaker is also not uncommon.
What Causes Sundowners?
Unfortunately, the cause of Sundowners is unknown. In addition, there may be more than one trigger making it difficult to intervene upon.
However, certain circumstances are likely to make Sundowners more prevalent such as when there is a great deal of commotion or increased visual or auditory stimulation. In an assisted living setting this may occur at the time of a shift change among staff.
If you are caring for an aging parent at home you may notice mom or dad becoming distressed when he or she can’t see clearly such as when the light begins to fade in the room and lamps are not yet turned on.
How can Sundowners be prevented?
What you can do immediately to try to prevent Sundowners is closely observe what happens in the hours before it occurs. Is your aging parent or the person you’re caring for exposed to loud noises or activities? Is he or she having caffeine or sugar which undoubtedly does not help? Are the rooms in your aging parent’s home well-lit while the afternoon sun is still bright? (Hint: If not, this is the first thing to try.)
It may take some time to be able to spot a pattern, but this is time well spent. So too is consulting with a geriatrician.