Monday, March 14, 2011

Ask Us Anything: What are the Symptoms of Sundowners Syndrome?

"Can Sundowners Syndrome affect patients during the day? If so, what types of signs should my family and I watch for with my grandparent in a rehab facility?"

Patricia Weeks O'Connor, Executive Director of the OLV Senior Neighborhood, Responds:

Patricia Weeks O'Connor, Executive Director of the OLV Senior NeighborhoodSundowners Syndrome is a set of behaviors exhibited by a person with Alzheimer's disease that generally occur in the transition between daylight and darkness.

It is not common to see these symptoms during morning or afternoon hours. However, some persons with Alzheimer's disease will exhibit restlessness or wandering behavior throughout the day.

Not every person with Alzheimer's disease will exhibit Sundowners Syndrome symptoms, but things you should look for include:
  • agitation,
  • restlessness,
  • wandering,
  • rapid mood changes,
  • and anger.
The person may become violent if re-directed, or may be very "clingy" or paranoid.

Unfortunately, there are few cures for Sundowner's Syndrome. There are environmental steps that may help, such as keeping lighting on (even using a light box that mimics sunlight) or the use of quiet music.

Some people respond to gentle touch, such as hand or neck and shoulder massage, but in the highly agitated person, this may have the opposite effect.

Medication may be helpful in curbing some of the agitation, however these must be closely monitored to minimize side effects.

If your family member is currently in a rehab facility, alert the staff to any observations you make about a change from their past behavior or personality. Your grandparent is likely new to the staff and they may not be familiar with his or her customary behavior. The staff will work with you, your loved one, and the physician to identify the appropriate interventions.

— Patricia Weeks O'Connor, Executive Director of the OLV Senior Neighborhood and Mercy Nursing Facility

Patricia Weeks O'Connor is the Executive Director of the OLV Senior Neighborhood and Mercy Nursing Facility in Lackawanna. OLV Senior Neighborhood provides senior housing, nursing home care, LIFE (a PACE program for the elderly) and blood testing.

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