Diagnosis of Sundown Syndrome


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.

Preventing the Symptoms of Sundowner’s Syndrome – Part 2

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.

8 thoughts on “Diagnosis of Sundown Syndrome

  1. My mother is beginning to act confused at times. I can tell her a simple story and in the same phone conversation she will ask about something which I already explained or told her just minutes before. My dad does everything for her….laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. She fell last year and tore her rotator cuff. She has selected not to have it repaired at her age (81). My dad is afraid she is going to fall again and really hurt herself. She sort of shuffles when she walks and doesn’t seem to pay attention to objects that are sticking out and might hit her or trip her. The most significant thing she started a few years back was having these epsisodes at night where she would get out of bed and do things like taking the curtains down to give someone she apparently dreaming about. She will be angry and cuss in the semi-sleep spells, something she does not do in her waking hours. Last Sunday she walked into my dad’s room and demanded to know why he brought her to this awful place. He told her to sit on the bed and they would talk about. This has helped in the past to calm her down until she awakens or he walks her back to her bed. Sunday night as when she went to sit she missed the bed and landed between the nightstand and bed, knocking a glass lamp off and breaking it. She is O.K. but a little sore from the fall. Does this sound like sundowners? She has not been tested for altzheimers but my siblings and I want to be so she could be put on medication that would help her. We worry that my dad (82) will wear himself out taking care of her. This is a new chapter for me and my siblings that we would rather skip, but the reality is sinking in that these night time actions, which used to be funny, are really a precursor to something else. Thanks for any comments.

  2. My sister lives by herself in a semi-apartment. There is another couple who lives on the other side. She says that she cannot sleep because they are playing music, humming, and talking. She thinks they have messed with her electricity and also bugged her apartment. She says the singing stops when someone calls her or if anyone comes to her apartment. With some of the things she is telling us, it is hard to believe. She turned 80 years old in August. Never been married and has no children. I have tried to get her to go to the doctor and maybe the doctor can help her but she just looks at me and says how can the doctor stop them from playing the music and messing with my lights. Any suggestions?

  3. My mom has started to be confused and stare off in the late afternoon. She is her normal self in the morning but as the day goes on she starts talking about off the wall stuff and she stares off. She gets this look on her face and it doesnt even look like her. It seems as though she gets confused about things and it isnt like her to be like this. It really has me concerned and I dont know what to do or where to turn. Could you please help me answer some of my questions?

  4. Last week (9-17-2012) my MIL was rushed to the hospital. She had a hard time breathing . She was diagnosed with pneumonia.
    After three days in the hospital the doctor came in and said to open all the windows so it was bright in the room. He was also very glad we were all there.
    He said she has Sundown Syndrome. During the day they are fine but when the sun goes down they get confused. He said as long as we were there she was fine.
    When she went home she would be also because she would be around things she knew.
    Has your mother been ill?
    Taking care of your elderly parents is hard.

  5. mother is 78 years 2months ago she was taken 2 u of s she was becoming very confused in the evenings and early morns . we dont know if she remembered to take meds ornot she had arthritis in her hands which has now cleared up had bronchial problems for the last 25-30 years and used a machine with meds morning and night she is not on machine anymore very confused when she is tired but very normal when rested . she will get up for the bathroom in the nite and cant find the bathroom and wanders last nite fell and bumped her head and fractured her hip surgery now for pin and plate she has been tested for press and hashimoto they treated her for hashimoto with steroids but things havent changed any ideas doctors cant seem to figure it out and they have released her twice now and going back in for a third time

  6. Mom 89 but 4 yrs. ago she broke her hip and when she got out of surgey she had a terrible case of sundown. We’re a close family and she thought we were trying to get rid of her and just aweful thoughts. Her surgen knocked it out with the smallest dose of Haldole. I may not be spelling this right. Anyway, it did the trick.

  7. My husband – age 79 – is a diabetic and has a-fib heart problems, plus his legs are very weak and he has trouble walking. he has been in the hospital for 1 week, going thru many tests, lung tests, heart tests and such. He has an abcess tooth and it was a several days before it could be taken care of. he was given anitbiotics for the infection and a vicadin sub medication for the pain in the tooth area. He had the tooth taken care of, but then ended up in ER due to his sugar falling and his low BP. He was a bit confused at home after taking the Vicadin – and now he is showing signs of Sundowners at the hospital. he is off the Vicadin and his BP and sugar is controlled. Will his sundowners get better or can i expect it to continue? His father developed dimentia at about 82 years of age.

    • My dad has all the above symptoms. He was told he’ll have to have 24hr supervisn.dad to my unveiling assigned a friend as his trustee, then made arrangements to travel to see him by air. He was discharged from the hospital on Saturday after falling during the night and struggled on the floor bruising his knee’s. He manage to
      Crawl out side and call for help. The hospital put him in a temporary adult care center where he became combatant. Right now he has a 24hr nurse

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