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It’s late afternoon. You’ve been visiting your elderly family member — who has dementia — when you notice they’re suddenly becoming agitated and angry. What’s going on?
It may be Sundowners syndrome — a set of neuropsychiatric symptoms occurring in seniors with mid-to-late stage Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. The exact causes of Sundowners Syndrome aren’t well known, but it’s thought to be associated with impaired cognition and circadian rhythm, which is responsible for our sleep-wake cycle, and could be triggered by the waning light of the day.
Sundowning symptoms can be expressed as mood swings, confusion, sadness, anxiety, anger, aggression, hallucinations or delusions. These may lead to pacing, rocking, screaming, crying, disorientation, resistance, anger, aggression — or even violence.
If your loved one is experiencing those symptoms, here are eight things you can do to help with sundowning.