'Sundowning' is real for some seniors, but not really understood
BY DR. KOMOROFF Universal Uclick
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
2/13/13 at 2:30 AM
Dear Doctor K: My wife is in her late 70s. Lately she appears very tired and agitated in the evenings. I talked to a doctor friend who said she might be "sundowning." What is sundowning, and what can we do about it?
Dear Reader: Some older people have trouble concentrating, grow agitated or even confused, and become especially fatigued at the end of the day. This phenomenon is known as "sundowning" because its effects tend to coincide with sunset - usually occurring in the late afternoon into the evening, then settling down late at night.
Sundowning behavior commonly occurs in people with Alzheimer's disease, but it can also occur in older people without Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia.
Sundowning is more likely to occur in an unfamiliar environment in a dark place. Sundowning occurs quite often in hospitalized patients. It can lead to problems such as falls and fractured bones as people get out of bed in their confusion and trip over something.
Sundowning is a temporary condition, and we don't entirely understand what causes it.
Here are some ways you can alleviate the effects:
If the problem is ongoing, have your doctor review the medications she is taking.
- Keep a daily log and jot down events that seem to trigger symptoms. For instance, too much noise or the act of preparing dinner could be a trigger.
- Stick to a regular schedule. Take walks or exercise at the same time, preferably early in the day.
- Schedule appointments, trips and activities in the morning. Limit obligations in the late afternoon hours.
- Take a late afternoon rest. Just putting her feet up and closing her eyes for a short respite can help preserve energy and prevent end-of-day fatigue.
- Prevent overstimulation by reducing noise.
- Reduce food and beverages that contain caffeine, or restrict them to early morning hours.
Write Dr. K at www.AskDoctorK.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut, Kansas City, MO 64106