Winter poses many hazards for all seniors but those with dementia may be facing a period of increased memory loss, agitation, confusion and in some cases, anger. However, these risks aren’t increased by the dropping temperatures. Instead, they are caused by the decreased hours of daylight, as Sundowners Syndrome is often the culprit for the heightened effects of dementia.
What Triggers Sundowners Syndrome?
Knowing the triggers of this syndrome can help inform a cohesive plan to alleviate the symptoms, even when the effects are unavoidable. Some of these triggers include:
- Lower Quality Light. Due to the visual challenges posed by dementia, having a lowered availability of quality light can have adverse effects.
- Hormone Imbalances. Research suggests there could be a link between hormone imbalances or internal clock disruptions that regulates waking and sleeping hours and Sundowners Syndrome.
- Exhaustion/Fatigue. Studies have shown that a lack of activity after dinner, particularly lack of activity that can be contributed to fatigue, has a negative impact on the effects of the syndrome.
- Increased Later Hour Activity. On the other hand, too much activity in the evening hours can also have a negative impact. Specifically, researchers have concluded staff changes in nursing homes toward the end of the day cause anxiety and confusion.
- Short Winter Daylight Hours. Some research has indicated there may be a link between Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a common depression caused by lack of sunlight exposure and exacerbated symptoms of the syndrome.
Unfortunately, a defined treatment plan has not yet been defined for the syndrome, as the syndrome itself has not yet been well established. However, there are tips that have helped dementia patients better manage the symptoms of the syndrome with the help of their loved ones.
- Reduction of noise such as televisions, radios and other entertainment devices, particularly in the late afternoon and throughout the night.
- Keep track of food and take note of changes in patterns when consuming foods that contain caffeine and sugar. Be sure to monitor and limit foods that cause disruption.
- Creating a regular, consistent routine that minimizes surprises to help with regular activity and limit anxiety about the day.
- Light boxes have had been shown to help those suffering from SAD, and can help those with many types of depression, which can help alleviate symptoms of Sundowning.
There are also some medications and supplements that can help with the effects. Having a safe home can also be beneficial, as modifications in the home can lead to more regular activity for the elderly. Contact us today to find out if our products could help keep your loved one active in their home.