Symptoms of sundowning syndrome upsetting for caregivers
St. Barnabas Anglican Church, 640 Sherbrooke Road in North Hatley. 9 a.m. Eucharist Service every 1st and 3rd Sunday; Morning Prayer Service (Liturgy of the Word) every 2nd and 4th Sunday. 819-842-2686.
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 256 Queen St., Lennoxville, 819-569-3100, Sundays: 10:30 a.m. Worship and Sunday School.
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 1169 Route 243, Melbourne, welcomes you to our 175th Anniversary, October 15 at 3 p.m. Minister: Rev. Barbara Fotheringham. Guest speaker: Rev. Dale Woods, Dean of Presbyterian College. Music: Ann Clark, organist and Mathew Fowler, Piper. Reception to follow.
United AYER’S CLIFF - MAGOG
Ayer’s Cliff - Magog - Georgeville Pastoral Charge welcomes everyone for Sunday service at Beulah United Church in Ayer’s Cliff - Worship service and Sunday School 9:15 a.m. and St. Paul’s United Church, Magog - Worship Service and Sunday School 11:15 a.m. with lunch provided each Sunday following the service in Magog. Minister: Rev. Lee Ann Hogle 819-571-7233.
Lennoxville United Church, corner of Queen and Church Street, welcomes you to worship with Bruce Gilbert on Sunday, October 15 at 10:00. Children are always welcome. 819-565-8449; website -lennoxvilleunitedchurch.com
The Richmond-melbourne Pastoral Charge invites you to join us for worship on Sunday, October 15 at 10:30 a.m. in Richmond, 247 rue Principale Sud. Joann Cleveland will be leading this worship service. All are welcome!
Plymouth-trinity United Church, corner of Dufferin and Terrill, 819-346-6373, the Rev. Samuel V. Dansokho, minister. Sunday, October 15, World Food Sunday, service in English at 10:30. Our service in French is at 9:00. Welcome to all! Notre service en français se tient à 9 h. Bienvenue à tout le monde!
Waterville/north Hatley United Church, Sunday, October 15, 11 a.m. Service with leader Carolyn Linde. Sunday School. Rev. Mead Baldwin 819-837-1112.
ASK THE DOCTORS By Eve Glazier, M.D., and Elizabeth Ko, M.D.
Dear Doctor: My husband was in the hospital recently, and at night he would get quite agitated. He yelled, took off his clothes and tried to pull out his IV. He had to be secured to his bed to keep him from leaving. But in the morning, he’d be fine and couldn’t remember anything from the night before. What’s happening? How can I help?
Dear Reader: What you’ve described is a few of a group of behaviors commonly known as sundowning, or sundowner, syndrome. It’s a descriptive term, not a psychiatric diagnosis. However, it’s broadly recognized as anxiety, confusion or agitation that is triggered by the onset of waning daylight. Sundowning can begin anywhere from late afternoon to late evening, and usually resolves in the morning, with the return of daylight.
In addition to the symptoms that you mentioned, people may have mood swings, become demanding, suspicious or even paranoid, hallucinate, hear voices, pace or become unaware of time and place. While sundowning is most commonly observed in people with dementia, impaired cognition and Alzheimer’s disease, it can also affect individuals who are institutionalized.
Exactly what causes these behaviors to develop isn’t yet known. However, in addition to the low light and emerging shadows that give the syndrome its name, triggers can include fatigue, sleeplessness, lack of mental stimulation, disrupted circadian rhythms and the presence of an infection, such as a urinary tract infection.
To see your loved one vanish into the throes of sundowning is upsetting and painful. But once an episode has begun, neither logic nor coaxing can help. Don’t try to talk or reason the person out of their fears. If they are hallucinating, don’t try to bring them into the present. The best thing you can do is stay calm and be reassuring.
Over the long term, approaches to managing this behavior include:
— Set up a daily routine with consistent waking and bed times, and regular mealtimes. This will form a predictable framework that can help the individual feel safe.
— Schedule any taxing activities for early in the day, when the person is at their best. Try not to do more than one or two significant activities, like a doctor’s appointment, a shopping trip, or visits from friends or relatives, per day.
— Watch the diet for any possible triggers. If it turns out that caffeine and sugar cause problems, consider eliminating them, or limit them to earlier in the day.
— As daylight fades, turn on lots of lights and close the curtains. Limiting noise can also be helpful.
— Check with your family doctor to see whether a supplement like melatonin may help with sleep cycles.
We are keenly aware of the mental and emotional challenges of being the caregiver at a time like this. That’s why we think it’s so important that you take time — make the time — to care for yourself as well. Take regular breaks, enlist outside help and see a counselor to help process what you’re going through. It will bolster your own health and will help you to be an even more effective caregiver.
And if any of you readers have successful strategies we haven’t mentioned that you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you.
Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an internist and assistant professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Elizabeth Ko, M.D., is an internist and primary care physician at UCLA Health.