"Sundowning," a syndrome that occurs in some dementia patients, causes these individuals to experience anxiety, disorientation and increased confusion. Symptoms of the aptly-named syndrome tend to crop up around dusk and continue into the night, and nearly 20 percent of Alzheimer’s patients are affected, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Researchers at Ohio State University recently conducted an animal study to investigate possible causes of sundowning. They observed the behaviors of mice in the hours before they normally slept and founds that the animals that were closer to the end of their lives were more likely to display signs of anxiety than middle-aged mice.
Some of the elderly animals were genetically engineered to have a dementia-like disease, and their levels of anxiety were found to be higher than healthy older mice. The researchers believe that sundowning is not a result of frustration, but a biologically-based symptom of aging and dementia.
Personal emergency response systems may help to alleviate some of the anxiety that some individuals who have been diagnosed with dementia may feel. Medical alert systems can provide a feeling of security, letting elderly people know that help can be reached if they fall or are otherwise injured.