An Alzheimer’s disease caregiver will tell you coping with sundown syndrome is difficult when providing care to an Alzheimer’s patient. Described as a state of confusion and agitation, sundown syndrome usually occurs in Alzheimer’s disease patients around late afternoon or early evenings.
While the exact cause of sundown syndrome is not known, many speculate people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have somehow had their biological clock altered because of a reduction in brain function. With an altered internal clock, people with Alzheimer’s and dementia are suspected to have difficulty regulating behaviour and activity associated with different times of the day.
Several researchers have also theorized that sundown syndrome may be associated with a drop in blood pressure after a meal, hunger or changes in blood glucose levels may trigger periods of confusion and agitation.
In dealing with sundown syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease caregivers are often left determining what causes the periods of agitation and confusion. Sundown syndrome triggers can vary greatly from Alzheimer’s patient to Alzheimer’s patient, leaving caregivers often at a loss at how to calm the patient.
When dealing with an Alzheimer’s disease patient prone to sundown syndrome, using full spectrum lighting to simulate sunlight may alleviate sundown symptoms. Regulating snacks and diet may help if sundown syndrome is triggered by diet.
Some Alzheimer’s caregivers have indicated they have success with sundown syndrome if they play a person’s favourite music or move them to a quiet room. Others have indicated using relaxation techniques and a gentle touch helps calm Alzheimer’s patients dealing with sundown syndrome.
It is important to recognize that Alzheimer’s patients experiencing sundown syndrome need reassurance and understanding of the Alzheimer’s caregiver. Recognizing triggers and alleviating triggers known to cause sundown syndrome will make both the Alzheimer’s caregiver and Alzheimer’s patient cope with the situation at hand.