Friday, October 22, 2010

Sundowner Syndrome

At a Glenner-sponsored Dementia Care Class in San Marcos, a group of caregivers discussed a common behavior, particularly among those with Alzheimer's disease: Sundowner Syndrome.

The syndrome is characterized by:

--Increased confusion and anxiety from mid-day to evening
--Increased tiredness
--Decreased ability to process information
--Inability to interpret the environment

Some other symptoms include:

--Rapid mood changes

What's a caregiver to do? Caregivers in the class recommended music or soothing sounds like the ocean or birdsong to calm agitation. Sometimes, if the person is not in an angry state, a soothing touch or light massage will work. Some in the class recommended aromatherapy or pet therapy.

Know too that often there is a trigger and if you can find it, you may be able to stop or at least mitigate the behavior associated with sundowner syndrome. Importantly, if you cannot calm a loved one after repeated attempts, it may be they are in physical pain. Try to narrow the source of that pain by asking simple questions that can be answered with a yes or no, such as "Does your stomach hurt?"

Wandering also is characteristic of sundowner syndrome. They may seek an exit, pace constantly, go exploring or follow anyone and everyone around. Be sure to maintain a safe environment with safeguards -- such as door locks and ID bracelets. Know too that a little reassurement can go a long way.