Around 20 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) experience a behavioral symptom commonly called “sundowning.” Sundowning is when the older adult becomes increasingly agitated, anxious, or aggressive in the late afternoon and evening hours. Scientists aren’t exactly certain what causes the behavior, but a recent study may provide important information that could lead to better treatment.
About the Study.
Researchers hoped to determine if the changes that occur in the brain due to AD also impact the body’s biological clock. The study was conducted on mice and draws a link between the biological clock and neurons that affect aggression. When scientists stimulated the group of neurons, it provoked violent attacks in the mice.
During the study, researchers noticed that the attacks varied in intensity and occurrence depending on the time of day. Specifically, they saw that the mice were more aggressive in the evening than they were in the morning. When the scientists manipulated genes that regulate the biological clock in the brain, the mice’s pattern of aggression changed. Instead of becoming more aggressive at night, they were equally aggressive all day.
While the research into how the biological clock affects aggression is still early, the results may shed light on how sundowning works and lead to a treatment for the problem.
Tips for Managing the Behavior.
Until doctors are able to find a way to treat sundowning, there are some things that can be done at home to manage the behavior. Some ways to manage sundowning are:
- Watch for sundowning triggers, then try to avoid them.
- When sundowning starts, try limiting the distractions in the room, like clutter, noise, and extra people.
- Offer a distraction, like a favorite activity or snack. If the older adult enjoys watching television, turn on a show that they are familiar with, but avoid those that include violence or things that may be upsetting.
- Adjust lighting to reduce shadows, which may be frightening or confusing.
- Keep the senior active during the day so that they are tired at night and more likely to sleep.
Another way to make coping with sundowning easier for family members is to hire a senior care provider. A senior care agency can work with you to match one of their staff members to your aging relative’s needs. Many senior care providers are experienced with older adults who have AD and know tips and tricks that work well for minimizing sundowning.
If you or an aging loved one are considering senior care in Tallahassee, FL, please call the caring staff at Hopewell In-Home Senior Care today at 850-386-5552. Providing Senior Care Services in North Florida