Treatments for Sundown Syndrome
Sundown syndrome is a common aspect of living with dementia or dementia-related diseases, and effectively managing its symptoms is a crucial component of the overall care plan. The following suggestions aim to mitigate some of the challenges associated with sundown syndrome.
Be mindful of triggers and work to reduce their impact. Fatigue is a frequent trigger. Instances of chaos or increased noise often occur when individuals return home from work or school, during meal preparation, changes in television content (e.g., shifting from game shows to news), or transitions in caregivers. Additionally, excessive consumption of sugar or caffeine, inadequate fluid intake earlier in the day (consider reducing fluids later in the day), and hunger may also act as potential triggers.
Establish a consistent routine. Engage in activities earlier in the day, limit naps if experiencing difficulty sleeping at night, and strive to reduce stress levels.
Simplify the environment within the home, particularly in the bedroom. Aim to maintain the bedroom at a temperature of 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit, utilize light-blocking curtains, avoid having a TV in the bedroom, enable the ability to dim lights, consider using a diffuser for essential oils (lavender is highly calming), and experiment with soothing sounds as potential strategies.
Practice attentive listening and redirection. Do not try to reason with them. Listen carefully and acknowledge their emotions. Recommend engaging in a beloved activity, enjoying a preferred food, listening to comforting music or watching a favorite movie, cuddling with a pet, or going for a walk.
Gradually increase lighting in the home as natural light diminishes. Consider utilizing a light box earlier in the day to provide additional light exposure. Excessive stimulation, variations in sounds, and clutter can induce mental stress, especially as lighting changes.
To create a soothing ambiance, play calming music or nature sounds in the background.
Essential oils in a diffuser or a spray bottle with water are calming. Find a scent they like. Lavender, rose, ylang-ylang, chamomile, blue tansy, and frankincense are soothing. To encourage activity during the day, try bergamot, jasmine, peppermint, rosemary, or citruses like grapefruit, lemon, or orange. This will require some testing. Try to get some professional help with the oils.
Explore alternative medicine such as acupuncture, massages, herbal teas, and Chinese medicine, specifically focusing on medicinal herbs. Find a practitioner who understands dementia.
Medications like antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs may help. Check with a geriatric psychiatrist for the best medication. Some drugs may cause the reverse effect and need to go well with current medications. Check with their physician or pharmacist before using any supplements or herbs. Melatonin is a commonly used supplement.
Lastly, treating sundown syndrome requires being very flexible and changing treatments as the disease progresses.
Goyer, A. (2022, October 18). How dementia caregivers can soothe sundown syndrome. Retrieved January 12, 2023, from https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/health/info-2017/ways-to-manage-sundown-syndrome.html?cmp=KNC-DSO-CAREGIVING-HealthRelatedConcerns-22817-GOOG-SundownSyndromeCare-Exact-NonBrand