Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, or Sundowner’s Syndrome, although research is being conducted in an attempt to find a way to prevent these debilitating disorders.
Blood cholesterol has also been linked to Alzheimer’s and dementia, although these studies were conducted on mice. If you want to avoid these ailments, it may be worth it to keep cholesterol levels down.
While a person’s activities will certainly not cause or prevent dementia, studies have shown that people who participate in activities that require concentration may delay the symptoms somewhat. Studies are being conducted, however, to try to determine what factors – dietary, genetic, or environmental – may cause this terrible mental decline. Some scientists speculate that environmental pollutants do contribute, such as mercury tooth fillings, but no studies have definitively proven that any of these substances cause dementia or Alzheimer’s. Some people have chosen to remove mercury fillings, however, just in case they cause physical problems.
If someone you know exhibits symptoms of confusion or memory loss, see a doctor immediately. Obtaining a proper diagnosis in the early stages of the disease is very important. Some forms of dementia are reversible, and in rare cases, the symptoms are even caused by a reaction to a medication.
An Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis doesn’t come easy, however. It’s difficult to identify brain disorders because going into the affected areas of the brain is too invasive and dangerous, so doctors must resort to other types of testing. Bear in mind that numerous tests may have to be conducted over a period of weeks before a definitive diagnosis can be made, but after you have received a diagnosis, you can work with your loved one’s doctor to develop a treatment plan.
There are ways to sometimes prevent the symptoms of Sundowner’s Syndrome, but everything is trial and error. No two people with the syndrome behave the same, nor are the reasons for the behavior the same. So, the only way you can determine if something will work is to try it.
The most important way to start is by maintaining a routine. This will help your loved one with Sundowner’s to feel safer. He or she will know exactly what is happening and when, which will minimize anxiety. If your loved one has moved in with you after living on their own or with a spouse, try to keep lifelong routines as much the same as possible. The more you are able to do this, the less likely the symptoms will manifest. If breakfast was at a specific time every day for many years, try to have breakfast at that time. You might even post the schedule where your loved one can read it, or you can post a list of tasks in the evening, such as “brush teeth; change into pajamas; wash face, etc.” Knowing what to expect can often prevent a person with Sundowner’s from manifesting symptoms.
Schedule rest periods, and try to keep the day’s activities to a minimum. Fatigue seems to contribute to Sundowner’s, although light exercise can sometimes be helpful if restlessness and sleeplessness is a problem
Never ask a person with any type of dementia to think of more than one thing at once. This will only add to the confusion and may bring on more difficult behaviors. Don’t rely on someone with dementia to take phone messages for you. Keep an answering machine for this task, as it can cause stress that will, in turn, cause Sundowner’s symptoms.
If you must schedule something unusual during the day, be sure to tell your loved one well in advance about what will be happening, and do not schedule such events two days in a row. Excessive noise also seems to contribute to fatigue because it creates additional stress. Since the loss of light is considered to be one of the reasons for Sundowner’s, you might avoid disorientation when darkness falls by turning on plenty of lights well before the sun goes down.
Because of the dangers involved with wandering, it’s one of the behaviors you will most want to prevent. Think about what might cause your loved one to wander. Perhaps they enjoy walking or are looking for someone. Sometimes, this confusion may involve feeling the need to complete a task. They may believe they’re going to work, as it’s often hard for people with dementia to come to terms with retirement. Perhaps your loved one needs to exercise. You can try to introduce some form of gentle exercise, although check with your doctor first to make sure you prevent injury.
Restlessness can sometimes be alleviated with a night light or a radio. Try calming agitated behaviors with soft and relaxing music. Sometimes, distraction works just as it does with a very young child. When a person with Sundowner’s becomes fixated on something illogical, suggest another activity that you know your loved one enjoys, or begin talking about the soft music you will play. You might suggest looking at family photographs, which may offer comfort and familiarity.