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Alzheimer's

Having This Late Afternoon Problem On a Regular Basis Could Be a Sign of Dementia

Speak to your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

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It’s not uncommon have trouble remembering things as we age. Unfortunately, it’s just a part of getting older. However, if you begin noticing that on a regular basis, you’re getting more confused than usual in the late afternoon or early evening, it may be time to talk to your doctor. You could be struggling with a phenomenon called sundowning, which may be a symptom of dementia.

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Before diving into exactly what sundowning is, it’s important to understand how dementia works. While Alzheimer’s is the most well-known and common type of dementia, it can take more than 100 unique forms; each dealing with abnormal changes to the brain that can alter the way you think and behave. These forms are often driven by different types of breakdowns in the way brain cells communicate with each other and the rest of the body, causing memory loss, major shifts in demeanor, agitation, general confusion, and more. There’s no cure for dementia at the moment, but there are strategies for slowing its progression depending on the type someone has. There are also a number of ways to help slow or prevent it, like eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and exercising regularly.

Based on all of that, sundowning may present in a number of different ways in dementia patients. Some people feel will feel particularly confused, aggressive, or anxious in the later afternoon or early evening on a daily basis, while others will wander, begin pacing unexpectedly, or suddenly become disoriented.

The good news is that sticking to a regular routine can go a long way to reducing the effects of sundowning in people who have dementia. Eating a healthy diet with meals at the same times every day, getting a full night of sleep, and lowering stress levels all help to manage the side effects that exacerbate dementia, like fatigue and detachment from reality. The Alzheimer’s Association also recommends scheduling appointments , short trips, and other errands during the earlier daylight hours to avoid mix-ups or confusion. Light therapy and small doses of melatonin are also commonly recommended strategies with scientific backing.

If you’ve noticed you’re experiencing ongoing confusion as the the sun begins to set each day, mention it to your doctor. It could be nothing, or it could be a symptom of something entirely different, but you won’t know without talking to a healthcare provider. Speaking up is the first step to getting support.

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