Does your Senior Have Sundowners?

November 30, 2012

Sundowners is a state where your senior or elder experiences confusion and distress at “sundown” or when daylight fades.

It shows itself in different ways depending upon the individual.  Some older adults begin to follow their caretaker around the home or facility while others may become obsessed about leaving where they are, making them more likely to wander. In extreme cases, people experiencing Sundowners can become paranoid and begin hiding things. Violence toward a caretaker is also not uncommon.

Unfortunately, the cause of Sundowners is unknown and there may be more than one trigger, making it difficult to manage. There are certain circumstances that likely make Sundowners more widespread such as a great deal of commotion or increased visual or auditory stimulation. In an assisted living setting this may occur at the time of a shift change among staff.

If you are caring for an aging parent at home you may notice mom or dad becoming distressed when he or she can’t see clearly such as when the light begins to fade in the room and lamps are not yet turned on.

How can Sundowners be prevented?

What you can do immediately to try to prevent Sundowners is closely observe what happens in the hours before it occurs.  Is your aging parent or the person you’re caring for exposed to loud noises or activities?  Is he or she having caffeine or sugar which undoubtedly does not help with agitation. Are the rooms in your aging parent’s home well-lit while the afternoon sun is still bright? If not, this a a good place to start.

It may take some time to be able to spot a pattern of behaviour or what is causing your senior's distress, but this is time well spent and can certainly alleviate your senior's emotional discomfort.

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