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April 3, 2024

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Eclipse Effects: Navigating Sundowning Syndrome

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By Sheleigh Highsmith, PMHNP-BC
Supervising Clinical Lead


Amidst the awe-inspiring spectacle of the April 8, solar eclipse, caregivers of individuals battling Sundowning Syndrome face unique challenges. At TeamHealth, we recognize this and stand ready to offer guidance and reassurance to those navigating the complexities of Sundown Syndrome during this celestial phenomenon.

In this article, we explore the factors associated with Sundown Syndrome, interventions that might support a person experiencing it and explain why viewing the solar eclipse is not suggested for those who suffer from the disorder.

What is Sundowning?

Sundowning, characterized by late-afternoon confusion and behavioral changes, presents hurdles in providing care and maintaining comfort. This article seeks to shed light on this phenomenon, offering insights and strategies to navigate through the eclipse’s effects on those affected by dementia-related conditions. These symptoms may affect people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, however, the exact cause of the behavior is unknown. So, as part of the country transitions into a brief period of twilight, we want this guidance to offer support for caretakers striving to safeguard their loved ones’ well-being during this celestial event.

Factors that Heighten Late-Day Confusion

  • Fatigue
  • Spending a day in an unfamiliar place
  • Low lighting
  • Increased shadows
  • Disruption of the body’s “internal clock”
  • Difficulty separating reality from dreams
  • Being hungry or thirsty
  • Presence of an infection such as a urinary tract infection
  • Being bored or in pain
  • Depression


Effective Strategies and Safety Tips

Behavioral interventions for managing Sundowning Syndrome employ personalized strategies and techniques tailored to individual needs. Identifying triggers, addressing unmet needs, and mitigating environmental stressors like sudden changes in surroundings can effectively reduce disruptive behaviors.

During a solar eclipse, maintaining a regular schedule is essential for managing Sundowning Syndrome. Adhering to the person’s usual routine minimizes confusion and anxiety that may worsen symptoms. Additionally, optimizing indoor lighting can help counteract eclipse-induced changes, reducing disorientation.

Providing a brief explanation of the solar eclipse can be beneficial for cognitively capable individuals. Creating a comforting environment with familiar items, soft music, and engaging activities eases distress. Distraction techniques such as games or art projects redirect focus, providing a sense of security.

While closely supervising, offer reassurance and comfort if agitation arises. However, it’s crucial to avoid eclipse watching to prevent potential harm. If symptoms worsen despite these measures, promptly seek professional support. Patience and understanding are vital in caring for individuals with Sundowning Syndrome, ensuring their comfort and safety during this event.

In conclusion, as part of the country witnesses this solar phenomenon on April 8, caregivers of those battling Sundowning Syndrome face unique challenges. At TeamHealth, we recognize the complexities of navigating Sundown Syndrome during this exceptional event. Together, we can navigate through these challenges and ensure the comfort and safety of those in our care.

Learn more about TeamHealth’s dedication to Acute Behavioral Health and Post-Acute Behavioral Health services.