I have been noticing how early it gets dark these days.
I have been noticing how my energy level seems affected by the early darkness.
I have been dreading some of the gray days that come with the seasons ahead.
I love sunlight. It is good for my being. It lifts my moods. It inspires me to live healthy and live well….
I am reminded as I sometimes feel irritable when the sun is setting earlier and earlier, how sundown affects so many people around the world.
There is a very difficult-time from dusk to dawn when those who struggle with Alzheimers or dementia are inflicted with mood changes, agitation, restlessness and increased confusion. It is not a disease that has a pill to manage the symptoms and so often families whose loved ones struggle with sundowners find it a deeply dreaded time of night.
The definition of sundowning is as follows: Sundowning is a psychological phenomenon associated with increased confusion and restlessness in patients with some form of dementia. Most commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but also found in those with mixed dementia, the term “sundowning” was coined due to the timing of the patient’s confusion. For patients with sundowning syndrome, a multitude of behavioral problems begin to occur in the evening or while the sun is setting. Sundowning seems to occur more frequently during the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease and mixed dementia. Patients are generally able to understand that this behavioral pattern is abnormal. Sundowning seems to subside with the progression of a patient’s dementia. Research shows that 20–45% of Alzheimer’s patients will experience some sort of sundowning confusion.
Sundowners is not a logical reaction to sunset, but a very real impact of how darkness affects some people. As it gets dark earlier there are many people who struggle longer. When I feel the lack of sunshine or the early sunset shortening my days, may I remember to say a prayer for many people who are deeply affected by the setting sun.
I find this psychological phenomenon to be quite common in my world of caring for aging adults, but unfamiliar to many who are caring for them. Knowing about it does not change it, but it can bring perspective to the struggle and a name to a very confusing time of day.
My prayers go out to all those who care for someone with Alzheimers and/or dementia. It is my hope you are able to delight in the moment that is before you when it is good and trust that your compassion and love during difficult moments is a beautiful way to care for someone.