Care tips for people combating Sundowners and Alzheimer’s
Updated: Sep 30
People started studying memory loss at the beginning of the 20th century. Although Alzheimers was first described in 1906, modern research was not conducted until the 1970’s. After ten years of raising awareness, the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study was established. This began the process of exploring what really happens inside the brain.
Dementia is an umbrella term describing the symptoms affecting memory and cognition. Alzheimers is a particular form of dementia and sundowners is coined to describe a group of behaviors often found in Alzheimers. Sundowners may include wandering, hostile or aggressive behavior, delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, increased anxiety and confusion, or some combination of these states. Typically sundowning occurs later in the evening when the sunlight starts to fade away. Hence, the coined term “sundown.”
There is no perfect answer to help people with these diagnoses. However, it is imperative to be knowledgeable in options available to provide high quality care for each individual. Here are a few tips to consider:
Create a safe environment
Making sure the individual is in a comfortable setting mitigates symptoms of agitation that come with their diagnosis. Things like: making sure their room temperature is adjusted to their liking, providing light in the dark to reduce fear of the unknown, setting appropriate door and window locks, and motion activated sensors in case the individual is tempted to wander. Plan more active days like: going on a trip, or to appointments, bathing, etc. This will discourage late afternoon napping and will help the individual sleep through the night.
Maintaining a schedule and avoiding stimulants like coffee or nicotine at night can help promote a restful sleep.
Keep awareness of our own mental and physical exhaustion.
You can accidentally project these feelings onto the individual, inducing irritable behavior. It is wise to step away and have your moment and come back when you are in a healthier mindset. As for physical exhaustion, it is imperative to voice what is going on to someone else who can help with the individual and find help when you need it. When there is not someone else around who can help you, it is imperative to find a way to relieve your stress. Options might include: reading, listening to calming music, meditation, watching tv. Something that can include both you and your loved one, but does not create any added tension. This blocks the client from feeding off your negative energy and can find energy from a neutral medium.
Try identifying triggers and limit exposure to those triggers as the day progresses.
All of these tips are useful, but do not guarantee immediate relief. It is wise to be able to talk to others about your experiences. We are all humans who gradually change, which means we have to evolve with our circumstances. People diagnosed with Alzheimers or other type of dementia who are experiencing sundowners need a fluid type of care that cannot be permanently defined.
The best thing you can do is learn the individuals normal and unusual behavior and habits. This will give you a deeper insight to what might be occurring inside their head. We tend to lose patience when people don’t understand, but diagnosed individuals deserve the utmost amount of patience when it comes to their medical health and safety. Here at Helping Hands, we work with individuals who have been diagnosed with such diseases. If you are in need of more knowledge or just some more help with someone you love and care for; please give us a call at 308-633-9200.