Sundowning Can Be Very Challenging 

Sundowning is something that all of us may face someday, and if you have ever been a caregiver to your parents or work in the field, you have seen it up-close.

We have had firsthand experience with this condition, seen it at its worse, and then slowly figured out with the help of a homeopathic pharmacist and 2 great medical institutions, were able to control it for several years.  

There is some confusion, however, about what this condition actually is.

Some people think that it is dementia, and while it may be associated with dementia, it is totally different. It is also not a disease as some people contend.

Instead, it is a considered to be a group of conditions that are often associated with dementia as well as Alzheimer’s.

First Hand Experience With Sundowning

Here is our firsthand experience and I will cover what we did to help later in this article.

When we first took my wife’s 76 year older mother into our home to care for her, she was in very bad condition and no one else in her family was willing to help.

Leading the list of her conditions was sundowning as at night she could not separate reality from dreams, one of the leading symptoms.

To make matters worse, we were told by Hospice that according to the state of Idaho, where she lived, she only had 30 to 60 days left to live.

We believed the experts and each day she would get worse, especially with the sundowning.

She was on 32 different types of medications, pain killers, as well as vitamins. Her major pain pills were Vicodin.

The Hospice nurses were giving her 2 every 4 hours for pain, and instructed us to do the same at night.

Common Symptoms

Here are some of the most common symptoms of sundowning, and she had every one of them

  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Ignoring directions

She exhibited all of these as she would get confused as soon as the sun set, and begin to get very agitated.  Once we finally got her to sleep, she would wake up in the middle of the night.

Several times she literally tried to tear down all of our Venetian blinds trying to escape, was very aggressive, and would not listen to anything we would say. It was not a real good experience.

Now, for this next part of our experience, don’t take anything the wrong way reading this article, but at this point we a wanted a second opinion other than just Hospice,

They are a terrific organization and helped us in several ways, especially when she did pass, but she did live another 7 years because of what we found.

We were fortunate as we lived in Jacksonville Florida at the time and were close to the Mayo clinic, Florida, as well as Shands hospital, associated with the University of Florida.

After we got second opinions from both, we were told she did not have congestive heart failure as we were told.

Per their instructions are directions, and she was cut down from 32 pills per day to 10.

All of the pain pills, including the Vicodin, were totally eliminated. In fact, from then on until she did pass 7 years later, the strongest “pain killer” we gave her was Tylenol-period.

Within 2 months the sundowning nightmare was totally over and never did return

Older Couple Enjoying Time TogetherOlder Couple Enjoying Time Together

Things To Try

Here are some of the recommendations the Mayo clinic gave to us to help

  • Maintain and do not deviate from a routine for all activities
  • Take her for walks in her walker and wheel chair as much as possible to get sunlight
  • Keep the curtains open all day long so she can see the light, the lawn, and nature
  • Cut back on both her sugar and caffeine intake after 12:00 noon
  • Keep a night light on at all times ( I cannot emphasis this enough—this is probably the top item in your plan of attack)
  • Limit her noise level at night (TV, radio, etc.)—hard to do, but we did it
  • Replace this noise with soft, soothing music
  • Put familiar photos and pictures all around her surroundings.

We did all of these steps in stages.

We both worked and would take turns. Walking someone experiencing sundowning, even if they are in a wheel chair or walker is critical.

They need to see the sun, the flowers, and the sky.

Even in the winter or colder days, letting them see outside is essential.

We started cutting back of the sugar and caffeine day one. She only weighed about 90 pounds and had a real sweet tooth, but we managed that as well after some advice.

However, the two most important things were to place pictures that she had in her house as well as all the pictures we had throughout the years, as well as lighting.

Her and her husband, who had passed 8 years before we took her in, loved to hunt and fish and we put all of the pictures we had over several years showing them, us, and my wife’s brothers and sisters, in every room in the house.

However, the real key to fighting sundowning is night lights.

We placed one in her bathroom, bedroom, one just outside her door, as well as our living room where she had tried to tear down the blinds.

Natural and Effective Treatments

The homeopathic pharmacist recommended three different natural treatments for sundowning.

  • The herb Ginkgo Biloba
  • Low dose Melatonin
  • Replace refined sugar with natural sugar from fruit

Ginkgo Biloba is a herb that has been used for several years for both Dementia and Alzheimer’s, both which have similar symptoms.

Melatonin is well known for inducing sleep, but from experience, keep it in low doses. We never said anything to her about replacing sugar—we just did it and never had any issues.

This can be an extremely challenging condition, but in our case we beat it.

References

Sundowning Answers

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/expert-answers/sundowning/FAQ-20058511

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