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Recognizing the Early Signs of Sundowning

Early stages of sundowning symptoms are subtle and can go unnoticed, however as the condition develops, they can become more evident. The signs of this condition can become very apparent at their peak. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Being Demanding
  • Being Disoriented
  • Being Suspicious

During the early stages, the symptoms can become difficult to recognize and inconsistent. While sundown syndrome patients who are at the peak of their development of this condition can experience nighttime confusion and agitation and show more consistent and obvious signs, those in the earlier stages show more subtle changes in personality.

Your elderly loved one might show some signs of being mildly confused, slightly irritable, or just a little bit ‘off’ in the early evening as some of the early symptoms of sundowning. These personality changes might not happen every afternoon during the early stages, but as the syndrome progresses, this behavior will become more consistent.

Causes of Sundowning

Some scientists believe that some brain changes that occur with people who have dementia could be altering their internal body clock. If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, the area in their brain that signals their body when they are asleep or awake breaks down. It is this breakdown that some scientists believes causes sundowning. Also playing a role is sleep troubles.

Minimizing Symptoms

One way of easing sundown syndrome symptoms is to help your elderly parent relax. If she seems agitated because she is hungry, for instance, try to offer her a snack or serve her meal earlier. Limit caffeine, sugar, and daytime naps. In some cases, doctors might even recommend giving her a low dose of melatonin, which is a naturally occurring hormone that helps promote sleep.

By being able to recognize the early stages of sundowning, you can create a plan for your loved one to manage her confusion, anxiety, and wandering that could go along with the symptoms. With professional guidance and some early planning, you can make nights more restful for your elderly parent who is suffering with this condition.

If your parent is showing early signs of sundowning and you need help with caring, call Fall River Jewish Hospital at 508.679.6172 to learn about adult day care options or respite care for your loved one today.

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