Mood changes are common in individuals with dementia, and can include a range of emotions from depression and anxiety to agitation and aggression. These mood changes can be caused by a variety of factors, including the progression of the disease, changes in the brain, and the individual’s response to their cognitive decline.
- Depression: Individuals with dementia may experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed.
- Anxiety: Individuals with dementia may feel worried, fearful, or nervous, especially in unfamiliar or stressful situations.
- Agitation: Individuals with dementia may become restless, fidgety, or irritable, and may exhibit behaviors such as pacing, yelling, or throwing objects.
- Aggression: Individuals with dementia may become physically or verbally aggressive, and may exhibit behaviors such as hitting, biting, or pushing.
- Sundowning: Some individuals with dementia may experience increased confusion, agitation, and restlessness in the late afternoon or evening, known as sundowning.
What is Sundowning with Dementia?
Sundowning is a phenomenon that affects individuals with dementia, characterized by increased confusion, agitation, and restlessness in the late afternoon or early evening. This increase in symptoms is often referred to as “sundowning” because it tends to occur as the sun sets and the day comes to an end.
The exact cause of sundowning is not well understood, but it is thought to be related to changes in circadian rhythms and disruptions in sleep patterns. Other factors that may contribute to sundowning include fatigue, changes in lighting or environment, and increased levels of stress or anxiety.
Symptoms of sundowning can vary and can include confusion, disorientation, agitation, restlessness, pacing, yelling, and even physical aggression. These symptoms can be distressing for both the individual with dementia and their caregivers, and can have a significant impact on their quality of life.
To manage sundowning, it’s important to maintain a consistent routine, including regular sleep and wake times, and to reduce stress and anxiety in the individual’s environment. Engaging in calming activities, such as listening to music or reading, can also be helpful in reducing sundowning symptoms. In some cases, medication may be necessary to manage sundowning, and it’s important to work with a healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment.
Dealing with Mood Changes from Dementia and Alzheimer’s
There are several strategies that can help manage these mood changes. One of the most important things is to maintain a consistent routine, which can help reduce confusion and anxiety. Engaging in leisure activities that the individual enjoys, such as listening to music or gardening, can also help improve their mood and reduce agitation. Regular physical activity is also beneficial for improving mood, reducing stress, and improving sleep. Staying socially connected with others through activities such as club meetings or walks with friends can also help improve mood and reduce anxiety in individuals with dementia.
Reducing stress is another important factor in managing mood changes. This can be achieved through deep breathing exercises, meditation, or other stress-reducing activities. Additionally, it’s important to minimize sensory overload, by reducing noise, bright lights, and clutter in the individual’s environment, which can minimize confusion and agitation. Non-pharmacological interventions, such as massage, aromatherapy, or pet therapy, can also be helpful in calming the individual and improving their mood.
In some cases, mood changes in individuals with dementia may be severe or persistent, and it may be necessary to seek support from healthcare providers. Healthcare providers can provide appropriate treatments and medications to manage mood changes, and can work with the individual and their caregiver to develop an individualized care plan that addresses their specific needs and concerns.
In short, here’s a quick go-to list of how to deal with a loved one who has mood changes or mood swings from dementia:
- Maintain a routine: Keeping a consistent routine can help reduce confusion and anxiety in individuals with dementia.
- Engage in leisure activities: Engaging in leisure activities that the individual enjoys, such as listening to music or gardening, can help improve their mood and reduce agitation.
- Stay physically active: Regular physical activity can help improve mood, reduce stress, and improve sleep in individuals with dementia.
- Foster social connections: Staying connected with others through social activities, such as going to a club or taking a walk with a friend, can help improve mood and reduce anxiety in individuals with dementia.
- Reduce stress: Finding ways to manage stress, such as through deep breathing exercises or meditation, can help reduce confusion and improve mood in individuals with dementia.
- Minimize sensory overload: Reduce noise, bright lights, and clutter in the individual’s environment to minimize confusion and agitation.
- Use non-pharmacological interventions: Try non-pharmacological interventions, such as massage, aromatherapy, or pet therapy, to help calm the individual and improve mood.