What Sundowning Means for a Family Caregiver

Not all carers in the UK receive wages for their services. The data showed that more than 5 million people extend support and service to their loved ones without pay.

That is understandable. Service is perhaps one of the purest forms of love and compassion. But it can also be challenging, especially if you are trying to manage a full-time job. Every illness also has struggles. Take, for example, people with dementia, who are prone to sundowning.

What Is Sundowning?

Britons who have loved ones dealing with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia can get assistance and support from facilities like a residential care home in Maidstone.

These places provide secure and compassionate homes for them, where they can also receive 24-hour healthcare service. They are especially necessary when the individual is already exhibiting sundowning.

What is sundowning? Also known as late-day confusion, it refers to a cluster of changing behaviors that occur in the late afternoon until the evening. Some of the common signs include:

  • Agitation
  • Aggressiveness
  • Irritability
  • Delusion or hallucination
  • Tremors
  • Mood swings
  • Physical fatigue

It is a symptom rather than a disease, and it usually happens during the middle stages of dementia. As the condition progresses, these behaviors can gradually lessen.

Why Does It Happen?

Until now, no one knows the reason why sundowning happens. Some studies, such as the one published in Psychiatry Investigation, cited a connection between impairment of a part of the hypothalamus and disturbance in the sleep-wake cycle.

This problem occurs in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which regulates the body’s circadian rhythm. It also plays a role in the production of melatonin.

Melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel relaxed so that you can sleep at night.  Other types of research also showed its association with mood. For instance, it can improve winter blues or depression.

The diminishing light can also trigger the behavior. The circadian rhythm is sensitive or responsive to light. This explains why you are active in the morning and sleepy as the night falls.

The Challenges of Sundowning

A person with dementia and is undergoing sundowning might tend to be restless. They can be wide awake all through the night, perhaps feeling frightened and overwhelmed by their surroundings.

Person helping old lady with dementiaConfusion can make them wary of the people around them, including their caregivers. It’s also not uncommon for them to wander. Sundowning is one of the primary reasons why people with dementia can get lost.

Many of these individuals experience respite once the daytime comes. That can be problematic for a family caregiver who has no expertise in calming people sundowning.

Sundowning might happen every night for weeks, increasing the risk of burnout for any caregiver. Caring for someone with dementia, especially if they’re showing signs of sundowning, is difficult. And yet, it’s the reality that comes with the disease.

However, you should remember that today, support is already available. Besides the government programs, you can rely on quality carers who can give your loved one the same level of love and compassion—and much more.

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