Signs of Sundowning

Sundowners Syndrome or Sundowning is a condition of fairly new recognition. With this in mind, if you are the adult child of a parent with memory issues, you may have heard for Sundowners Syndrome and you may believe that it has afflicted your mother or father. If you do believe Sundowners Syndrome is afflicting your parent, you need to make an appointment with his or her primary care physician as soon as possible. If your parent already has a memory care specialist, the appointment can be made with that individual as well. 

Because you undoubtedly have questions about Sundowners Syndrome, we provide you with some basic information about the signs of sundowning. 

What Is Sundowners Syndrome?

Before diving into a discussion of the signs of Sundowner’s Syndrome, we provide an explanation of this condition from the Mayo Clinic:

The term “sundowning” refers to a state of confusion occurring in the late afternoon and lasting into the night. Sundowning can cause different behaviors, such as confusion, anxiety, aggression or ignoring directions. Sundowning can also lead to pacing or wandering.

Sundowning isn’t a disease. It’s a group of symptoms that occur at a specific time of the day. These symptoms may affect people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. The exact cause of this behavior is unknown.

Signs of Sundowning

There is variation in regard to the signs of sundowning demonstrated from one person with the condition to another. With that said, there are some signs that are more frequently associated with Sundowners Syndrome. In fact, a typical person may demonstrate multiple signs of sundowning simultaneously. These signs include:

Agitation: A very common symptom exhibited by an individual with Sundowners Syndrome is agitation. The exhibited level of agitation can be extreme in some instances. Calming an individual down who is experiencing sundowning agitation can prove to be highly difficult, sometimes even impossible.

Restlessness: A person experiencing sundowning may also be restless, unable to sit still and incapable of falling asleep. This can result in a person who suffers from sundowning to experience fatigue throughout the day.

Irritability: Irritability is yet another sign of an individual with Sundowners Syndrome. This can result in such an individual becoming quite obstinate and unwilling to take recommended steps to try and address issues surrounding sundowning. 

Confusion: Sundowners Syndrome can also result in a person becoming confused, sometimes highly. The level of confusion can become more profound as the condition progresses. Confusion also becomes more significant during a sundowning period as underlying dementia or other memory-related issue itself progresses.

Disorientation: Disorientation is a primary sign that an individual is afflicted with Sundowners Syndrome. Disorientation associated with sundowning can be to space, time, or both. Disorientation can be difficult to address during a period of sundowning. The goal is to keep the individual safe when this occurs. 

Demanding: Another hallmark of sundowning is the fact that an individual with this disorder can become highly demanding. The demands made by a person in the midst of sundowning can be unreasonable and even of a nature that they are impossible to fulfill in any manner. There are also times when a person in the midst of sundowning makes demands that if fulfilled would be dangerous to that individual and others around him or her. 

Suspicious: A person with Sundowner Syndrome may become very suspicious about other people and things around them during the sundowning period of time each evening and into the night.

Yelling: An alarming sign of sundowning is yelling or screaming. A person with Sundowner’s Syndrome may start yelling voraciously. The yelling might be directed at specific individuals. In the alternative, the shouting or yelling might not be directed at anything in specific whatsoever. 

Pacing: The effects of Sundowners Syndrome can include incessant pacing. In fact, the pacing can be so persistent that it can be very difficult to get the person experiencing sundowning to stop.

Wandering: Wandering is relatively common among individuals with memory issues, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. It is also a feature of sundowning for some individuals. This includes people who do not otherwise engage in wandering. 

Mood Swings: A common feature of Sundowners Syndrome is mood swings. A person with this condition may be in a perfectly good or pleasant mood during the day. As the evening draws near, that same individual can experience a drastic mood change. 

Seeing or Hearing Things: A disturbing feature of sundowning in some cases is that an individual with this syndrome will see and hear things that simply are not there. They do not endure these types of delusions during other times of day.

As was mentioned at the start of this article, if you believe your parent is afflicted with Sundowners Syndrome, it is important to seek medical assistance promptly.