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For many people, darkness can trigger negative emotions. The late afternoon and early evening hours can trigger something known as “sundown syndrome,” which is an increased amount of memory loss, anger and confusion that mainly affects those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. This can occur at home, in the hospital, in a memory care home or anywhere. It can be difficult to manage, but there are some methods and triggers to avoid that can help.

What Are Symptoms of Sundown Syndrome?
Many people with Alzheimer’s and dementia may experience a range of strange behaviors during the sunset hours. Some of the symptoms of sundown syndrome include:

  • Rapid mood changes
  • Anxiety or fear
  • Restlessness
  • Sadness or anger
  • Interrupting
  • Repeating questions

Symptoms may be inconsistent but are usually minor. However, some people may experience severe symptoms, including:

  • Hallucinating
  • Feelings of paranoia
  • Violence
  • Increased wandering

As many as one-fifth of individuals with memory loss issues will experience sundown syndrome, so it’s important to understand the various triggers and how to manage them.

Recognizing and Managing Triggers
It’s important to recognize the signs of sundown syndrome. Some triggers may include fatigue due to a high level of activity during the day, low light, or side effects of certain medications.

To reduce the amount of triggers, make sure to establish a routine with reduced activity during the late afternoon or evening hours. This will minimize the surprises and flurry of activity that can trigger sundown syndrome. You should also make sure to have light in the room, as darkness can also trigger symptoms. Controlling the level of background noise and avoiding large amounts of caffeine and sugar can also help.

Caregivers are trained to recognize and manage the signs of sundown syndrome. With the right kind of help, your loved can have the help they need to manage sundown syndrome.