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4 Simple Ways of Helping Someone Cope with Sundowning

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4 Simple Ways of Helping Someone Cope with Sundowning

If you have a loved one who suffers from dementia, you might also notice a change in their behavior as late afternoon and early night approaches.  Doctors call this ‘Sundowning, a ‘Sundown Syndrome’, or even ‘late day confusion’.

People suffering from Sundown Syndrome may show the following symptoms during the latter half of the day:

  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Sadness
  • Restlessness
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Mood swings
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Extreme pacing
  • Wandering
  • Rocking

For some people, the symptoms they face diminish immediately. However, for some, they continue on, disturbing their sleeping schedule: leaving them wide awake at night and making them sleepy during the day.

Preventing Sundown syndrome is impossible, however, as a caregiver you can engage in a number of techniques that can help reduce the ‘late day confusion’ and agitation that your loved one faces.

The following may help:

1.        Make a schedule and try to follow it

People suffering from Alzheimer’s usually cannot remember new things, which makes it hard for them to develop new routines. This unfamiliarity in their daily life can cause stress and agitation which seems to play a role in causing the symptoms to surface.  Hence, keep your loved ones calm and collected by setting a regular time for eating, sleeping, etc. The familiarity provides them with security.

2.        Light it up for them

Theories to explain Sundowning are many, but one reason that stands out is the change in a patient’s sleep-wake cycle. To address the issues, experts have suggested adjusting the lights in the room – by adding bright or fluorescent lights. This can help prevent those with Sundowning from assuming that it is night time, which in turn, will make them less agitated and confused. 

3.        Distract and attract

Divert the person away from self-consuming thoughts and anxieties by engaging in activities that they love. These may include engaging in physical exercise, going for walks or even playing music. Distractions help reduce daytime napping, increasing the chances of peaceful sleep at night.

4.        Be there for them but do not overdo it

Try to stay calm when you’re dealing with a patient or loved one. Do not argue with those suffering, even if they face hallucinations or delusions. Just reassure them, tell them they will be fine and that you are there watching out for them. Your presence in itself offers them the familiarity they crave.

Managing Sundown Syndrome is not easy. It requires patience and time but a little support from you can help ease your loved ones’ anxiety and confusion.

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