Sundowner’s Syndrome Symptoms

Sundowner’s Syndrome Symptoms

What is the most difficult time of day for caregivers dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia? Many agree that the evening hours can be especially challenging as Sundowner’s Syndrome is ever-present in the after-hours.

What is Sundowner’s? In simple terms, it is an ailment that causes symptoms of confusion that often occurs after sundown. But the condition is anything but simple.

The mind is complex, and when someone suffers from this syndrome, it complicates matters further. As the brain deteriorates, it’s normal to have confusion. The end-of-day is also a time when people are typically tired and overstimulated, which can then be overwhelming. All of these “over-adjectives” speak volumes as Sundowner’s can not only be rough on the sufferer, but also on their caregiver too. If the mind is not processing normally, this only adds to nighttime woes.

Let’s think for a minute. Healthy people in their prime are often moody at night. Children — who don’t know any better — also tend to act up at night. So, when someone has a disease in the brain, it only makes sense that darkness in tandem with exhaustion propagates behavioral issues. As mentioned in a previous post on sundowning and dementia, natural circadian rhythms respond to the loss of sunlight; it’s a very human response to be more depressed at night. But the issues are heightened in dementia sufferers.

So, what do you do? Although everyone is different, there are ways to help make life a little easier during those dusk hours.

Top Ways To Ease Sundowning

    1. Regulate sleep. Knowing your loved one’s regular routine is important. You don’t want to overdo napping, otherwise they will be unable to sleep through the night, but sleep does have rejuvenating effects. Encouraging rest throughout the day with one or two catnaps — no more than 20 minutes or so — can make all the difference.
    2. Encourage light and positive ambiance. Keeping rooms well-lit helps enhance the mood and distracts from the fact that it’s dark outside. Having some music playing that your loved one enjoys can also help boost spirits, and encourage happy reminiscing and memories. If there’s a window, allow for light exposure in the morning that can also help set a natural internal clock.
    3. Encourage an active day. It’s no secret that keeping an active mind and body with stimulating and healthy activities and exercises is good for all. This is especially true for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s. Being cognizant of a healthy balance of activity, designed for the individual senior, is what’s important. Whether it’s encouraging exercise, such as walking or gardening, or nourishing the mind through a trip to the museum or by reading an appropriate book or watching a comforting show — stimulating mental engagement gives your loved one purpose.
    4. Think about an appropriate medication. Sometimes, if nothing else is working, it may be time to consider an appropriate medication. There are specific medications on the market for those with Sundowner’s, so talk to your loved ones doctor about what may be right for him or her.

Are you a caregiver who has found a way to soothe your loved one’s Sundowner’s Syndrome symptoms? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

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4 Ways to Soothe Sundowner’s Symptoms byDana Larsen

About the Author

Dana Larsen is a senior living writer whose mission is to educate and empower caregivers and equip them with the resources and knowledge they need to not only care for their elderly loved ones, but also care for themselves.

On a personal note, Dana is mother to two bright-eyed, zealous children and helps as a caregiver for her vivacious and quirky 88-year-old grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Her passions include dancing, yoga, traveling, good food and the arts. She graduated with honors from University of Washington with a degree in English and Communications and achieved Technical Communications Certification from Bellevue College. View .

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How to Spark Memories for People with Dementia

When a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, cognitive and neurological decline can make it difficult to recognize the person we know so well. In later stages of the disease, loved ones may no longer be able to speak, and they may show few signs of responding to the world around them or the people who love them.

Finding activities for Alzheimer’s patients that prompt a sense of alertness and a “return to themselves” can be priceless for families and caregivers. One possibility that researchers are optimistic about is the use of music – especially familiar, beloved songs – to reawaken memories in those with dementia and other neurological problems. Enter LifeSongs, an innovative product developed by memory care professional Suzanne Lyon. Using personalized music, photos, and other sensory triggers, LifeSongs provides a unique way to capture memories and keep them at hand even for those experiencing cognitive decline.

LifeSongs: Memories and Dementia

At its most basic level, LifeSongs is a memory book that can help seniors and families build a collection of treasured memories to enjoy together. It is far more than simply a scrapbook, though. Harnessing the unique power of music to act as a bridge to the past and a connection to the present, LifeSongs makes it possible to embed voice and music recordings into each of its 12 pages. Along with your collages of photos and mementos, you can personalize a soundtrack that evokes pleasant emotions and cherished memories.

For those with dementia, these memories can bring back a sense of identity and self, helping them connect with important moments in their lives as well as reconnecting them with the present. It can promote a calming mood, reduce stress and may even help them communicate more effectively.

The Science Behind LifeSongs

Music therapy is a growing field of study, and while much of the evidence so far is anecdotal, researchers generally agree that music does trigger memories, sometimes very powerfully. The non-profit Music and Memory, which promotes the use of music therapy for health, did a survey of 26 nursing homes and discovered  that the use of personalized music using iPods decreases problem behaviors and reduces dementia symptoms like anxiety, agitation, sundowning and depression.

“People with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias can respond to music when nothing else reaches them,” said the notable neurologist Oliver Sacks in his 2007 book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain.

“Even in people with advanced dementia, music can often reawaken personal memories and associations that are otherwise lost.”

There are some potential limitations to the use of music as therapy, of course. Suzanne Hanser, PhD, department chair of music therapy at Berklee College of Music in Boston and former program director of San Francisco’s Alzheimer’s Association, says: “To be most effective, music therapy procedures must be tailored to the individual needs of each person with dementia.” With its recordable pages, LifeSongs enables families to do just that, whether your loved one is moved by Mozart or enlivened by Elvis.

To find out more about LifeSongs and how you can use it for Alzheimer’s care, visit the LifeSongs website, where you can buy your copy through a special offer from A Place for Mom.

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Stay Safe in Cold Weather


Dementia patients can lose body heat fast. A big chill can turn into a dangerous problem before a person with Alzheimer’s even knows what’s happening. Learn how to stay safe in cold weather.

Losing too much body heat is a serious problem called hypothermia (hi-po-ther-mee-uh).

Protect people with with dementia from hypothermia during those months when it’s cold outside. Check out these tips on how to stay safe. Share it with your family and friends.

What is hypothermia?

Hypothermia is what happens when your body temperature gets very low. For an older person, a body temperature colder than 95 degrees can cause many health problems, such as a heart attack, kidney problems, liver damage, or worse.

Being outside in the cold, or even being in a very cold house, can lead to hypothermia. You can take steps to lower your chance of getting hypothermia.

Bob’s story

Vermont winters can be very cold. Last December I wanted to save some money so I turned my heat down to 62 degrees.

I didn’t know that would put my health in danger. Luckily, my son Tyler came by to check on me. He saw that I was only wearing a light shirt and that my house was cold.

Ty said I was speaking slowly, shivering, and having trouble walking. He wrapped me in a blanket and called 911. Turns out I had hypothermia. My son’s quick thinking saved my life. Now on cold days, I keep my heat at least at 68 degrees and wear a sweater in the house.

Keep warm inside

Living in a cold house, apartment, or other building can cause hypothermia. People who are sick may have special problems keeping warm. Do not let it get too cold inside and dress warmly.

9 Tips for keeping warm inside:

  1. Set your heat at 68 degrees or higher.
  2. To save on heating bills, close off rooms you are not using.
  3. To keep warm at home, wear long johns under your clothes.
  4. Throw a blanket over your legs.
  5. Wear socks and slippers.
  6. When you go to sleep, wear long johns under your pajamas, and use extra covers.
  7. Wear a cap or hat.
  8. Ask family or friends to check on you during cold weather.
  9. Bundle up on windy, cool days

Stay warm outside

A heavy wind can quickly lower your body temperature. Check the weather forecast for windy and cold days. On those days, try to stay inside or in a warm place. If you have to go out, wear warm clothes.

Tips for bundling up:

  1. Dress for the weather if you have to go out on chilly, cold, or damp days.
  2. Wear loose layers of clothing. The air between the layers helps to keep you warm.
  3. Put on a hat and scarf. You lose a lot of body heat when your head and neck are uncovered.
  4. Wear a waterproof coat or jacket if it’s snowy.

Ask Your Doctor

Talk with your doctor about how to stay safe in cold weather. Some illnesses may make it harder for your body to stay warm. Taking some medicines and not being active also can affect body heat. Your doctor can help you find ways to prevent hypothermia.

Tips for talking with your doctor about hypothermia:

  1. Ask your doctor about signs of hypothermia.
  2. Talk to your doctor about any health problems (such as diabetes) and medicines that can make hypothermia a special problem for you.
  3. Ask about safe ways to stay active even when it’s cold outside.

Warning signs of hypothermia

Sometimes it is hard to tell if a person has hypothermia. Look for clues.

  • Is the house very cold?
  • Is the person not dressed for cold weather?
  • Is the person speaking slower than normal?
  • Is the person having trouble keeping his or her balance?

Watch for the signs of hypothermia in yourself, too. You might become confused if your body temperature gets very low. Talk to your family and friends about the warning signs so they can look out for you.

Early signs of hypothermia:

  • cold feet and hands
  • puffy or swolen face
  • pale skin
  • shivering
  • slower than normal speech or slurring of words
  • acting sleepy
  • being angry or confused

Later signs of hypothermia:

  • moving slowly, trouble walking, or being clumsy
  • stiff and jerky arm or leg movements
  • slow heartbeat
  • slow, shallow breathing
  • blacking out or losing consciousness

Calling 911

Call 911 right away if you think someone has warning signs of hypothermia.

Tips for what to do after you call 911

  • Wrap the person in a warm blanket.
  • Do not rub the person’s legs or arms.
  • Do not try to warm the person in a bath.
  • Do not use a heating pad.


Your questions answered:

Q. What health problems can make it hard for my body to stay warm?

A. Diabetes, thyroid problems, Parkinson’s disease, and arthritis are common problems for older people. These health concerns can make it harder for your body to stay warm. Talk to your doctor about your health problems and hypothermia. Your doctor can tell you how to stay warm even when it’s cold outside.

Q. Can medicines lower my body’s temperature?

A. Yes. Some medicines used by older people can make it easy to get hypothermia. These include medicines you get
from your doctor and those you buy over-the-counter. Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any medicine.

Q. What can I do to stay warm at home?

A. Try closing off any room you are not using. Also:

  • Close the vents and shut the doors in these rooms.
  • Place a rolled towel in front of all doors to keep out drafts.
  • Make sure your house isn’t losing heat through windows.
  • Keep your blinds and curtains closed.
  • If you have gaps around the windows, try using weather stripping or caulk to keep the cold air out.
  • And, it helps to wear warm clothes during the day and use extra blankets at night.

Q. Can I get any help with my heating bills?

A. You may be able to get help paying your heating bill. You can call the National Energy Assistance Referral service at 1-866-674-6327 to get information about the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. It’s a free call. If you have a computer with internet, you can also email them at:

Summary — What you can do about hypothermia

  1. Set your heat at 68 degrees or higher.
  2. Dress warmly on cold days even if you are staying in the house.
  3. Wear loose layers when you go outside on chilly days.
  4. Wear a hat, scarf, and gloves.
  5. Don’t stay out in the cold and wind for a long time.
  6. Talk to your doctor about health problems that may make it harder for you to keep warm.
  7. Find safe ways to stay active even when it’s cold outside.
  8. Ask a neighbor or friend to check on you if you live alone.
  9. If you think someone has hypothermia:
    • Call 911 right away.
    • Cover him or her with a blanket.
    • Don’t rub his or her legs or arms.
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The Sandwich Generation

As a caregiver have you ever felt “sandwiched” right in the middle between having to care for your children and a spouse as well as caring for your elderly parents?   Generally known as the “Sandwich Generation,” this growing population is estimated to be affecting one in eight Americans between the ages of 40 and 60 according to a Pew Center study. This same study found that one-in-seven middle-aged adults (15%) are providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child. For many baby boomers caring for grandchildren is a further extension of this sandwich generation phenomenon, which may curtail retirement plans and place extra burdens on their finances. The bottom line is that most caregivers are caught in the middle when it comes to caring for others Continue reading

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Ten Beneficial Activities for Dementia Patients

Here are ten beneficial activities for dementia patients that may slow cognitive impairment associated with the disease. For best results, try to maintain a consistent program.

  • Puzzles: Depending on how far an individual’s dementia has advanced, puzzles are a great source of distraction and a good activity for their mind. A 100-piece jigsaw with lots of colors is a good choice. The pieces should be large and the images should not be child-oriented but rather scenic views or pictures of animals. Floor puzzles work well since they usually have large pieces and there aren’t so many that your loved one will get discouraged or frustrated. Assembling them on a table is recommended to avoid having to get up off the floor.
  • Photo and Scrapbooking: There are several activities you can do with pictures. Help your senior sort them by subject, type or date. When you’re finished, mix them up so they can be sorted in a different way the next time. Put together a photo collage or make a scrapbook by gluing pictures onto the pages and then writing notes about their memories next to it. Look through old photo albums and try to identify who is in the picture, when it was taken and what the individual remembers about it.
  • Sorting: Get items that your family member can sort, such as buttons of different sizes and colors, poker chips, bottle caps, balls or rocks. Have them group the various items together. Be sure to keep an eye on them, however, so they don’t try and eat the objects.
  • Stringing: Let them make a chain by stringing things like Cheerios, fruit loops or popcorn and then hang the chain outside for the birds and squirrels. This activity is even more enjoyable because they can snack while they are stringing.
  • Coloring: Coloring is a great decision-making activity that also helps to foster accuracy and strengthen their ability to concentrate. Participants choose the colors and then work on staying inside the lines. It’s also fun and can relieve stress for the seniors and the caregivers.
  • Ball toss: Gather up a group of residents and a ball and enjoy yourselves. Form a circle and roll the ball toward the seniors and have them kick it or toss it back.
  • Games: It is difficult for someone with dementia to learn new games. The best ones are familiar and only have a few steps. Those who are still in the early stages of dementia would benefit from easy crossword and word search puzzles that have large type. Childhood games, such as Go Fish, Old Maid, War, Dominos and Bingo, are fun, too. Difficulty retrieving words is an early sign of memory loss. Word games can be fun and easy. Ask the individual to complete a familiar phrase, like, “Somewhere over the__ or Easy come, easy__.”
  • Life skills: Encourage seniors to help with basic household chores. They can fold clothes, dust, vacuum, sweep the floor and set the table. Completing these tasks gives them a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
  • Exercise: Engage them in physical activities, such as walking, dancing or stretching. It can be as simple as having them slowly raise their arms several times or bending at the knees or from side to side to improve their circulation.
  • Reminiscence therapy: Seniors love to reminisce. This form of cognitive stimulation works wonders for improving the quality of life for someone with dementia. Activities could involve listening to music, baking and eating a special family recipe or telling “I remember when” stories. Looking at pictures of cars, celebrities, clothing or events from their childhood also can bring back those feelings from “the good old days.”
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4 types of people

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The Sandwich Generation

What is The Sandwich Generation? If you are taking care of an aging parent and have children at home it’s YOU! This is a new role in the game of life for which no one can ever rehearse. Becoming a Caregiver to an aging parent presents extraordinary challenges. That is where Taylor Made Home Care can help, whether you need short/long term respite care, hourly or 24 hour care. Call us we can help (440)946-6446.
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