Memory Care and Dementia – Caring Counts Ep1 – Applewood Our House


Memory Care and Dementia – Sundowning in the Elderly


As the name signifies, sundowning symptoms manifest around sunset. Medically referred to as nocturnal delirium, it is associated with increased disorientation, confusion, and agitation in the late afternoon. The worst part about this syndrome is that it is asymptomatic in the initial stages.

Even if symptoms are present, they mimic dementia and other mental health problems. Thus, early diagnosis of sundowning syndrome is difficult in most patients. It is crucial that you get this diagnosed if you have memory care and dementia seniors.


Sundowning Syndrome in the Elderly


Although sundowning and dementia are related to each other, there is no relevant medical data concerning this syndrome. Caregivers believe that symptoms of dementia among elderly patients exacerbate during late afternoon or evening time. And the manifested medical indications are collectively referred to as sundowning or sundown syndrome. Refer to the following points to understand more about sundowning syndrome in the elderly.


Causes of Sundowning


Today, the exact causes of sundowning in the elderly are unknown. While some medical experts claim that it is related to tiredness and stress, others believe sundowning could be because of sensory stimulation during the day. Another probable cause is hormonal fluctuations in elderly and critically sick patients. Patients of dementia get stressed out very easily, which leads to increased confusion.


Sundowning Risk Factor


Elderly patients who have a medical history of dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease are at a higher risk of manifesting sundowning syndrome than others. According to statistics, approximately 45 percent of Alzheimer’s disease displays sundowning symptoms. Also, people with severe cognitive complications may experience similar indications during sunset and sunrise time.


Symptoms of Sundowning


Delusions of being watched or criticized, mark the onset of sundowning syndrome. As the condition progresses, the patient exhibits signs of suspicion, mood swings, disorientation, and insecurity. Abnormal demands and increased arguments are other symptoms of sundowning in the elderly. At times, we can observe hallucinations, which may be due to disturbances in the brain’s chemical signaling. In short, sundowning symptoms are similar to dementia in the elderly.


Managing Sundowning


Signs and symptoms of sundowning are managed effectively with well-planned treatment strategies. The patient should be allowed to take frequent naps at regular intervals. Convincing a hallucinated patient that what he/she sees is not real is a great way to calm them. Other effective tips for caring for sundowning patients include calming the patient, avoiding tiredness, reducing stress, ensuring security, and maintaining a healthy diet. Diverting the aged patient from watches and shades will also help in preventing the onset of sundowning.


Sundowning Treatment


The severity of disruptive behavior may vary from one patient to another. Accordingly, the therapeutic approach for treating sundowning syndrome differs. Based оn the behavioral condition, doctors may recommend anti-psychotic drugs in a specific dosage. Understand that ѕuсh medicines are associated with certain side effects. Thus, the administration of these medications should be done only under the strict guidance of a physician.

Support from caregivers and family members is crucial for effective management of sundowning in the elderly. They should have a clear idea about the existing condition of the patient. Careful observation of the triggering factors and avoiding them is a sure way to help sundowning patients. Any worsening in the manifested symptoms should be informed to the concerned physician as soon as possible. If required, the doctor may change the prescribed medications or their dosage intake. Last but not least, keeping hydrated by offering healthy drinks helps in reducing tiredness and restlessness.

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