A health professional may evaluate the day-to-day functioning of a
person who has Alzheimer's disease by asking questions and observing
the person. This often is done informally during the medical history and
Sometimes the health professional may use a more formal functional
status exam to evaluate a person's ability to perform daily activities. A
functional status exam may also measure current ability to do various
activities, such as paying bills, preparing meals, or keeping track of
appointments, compared to how well they were performed previously. The test
usually is completed by someone in close contact with the person, such as a
family member or caregiver.
Sundowning, or sundown syndrome, affects some people who have Alzheimer's disease and dementia. People with dementia who "sundown" get confused and agitated as the sun goes down -- and sometimes through the night.
Sundowning may prevent people with dementia from sleeping well. It may also make them more likely to wander. Due to the stress it puts on caregivers, sundowning is a common cause of caregiver burnout.
Not being able to do certain everyday tasks on your own is not always
a sign of a problem. For example, if you have never been able to balance your
checkbook, not being able to balance your checkbook now does not reflect a new
problem with your ability to function. But a change or decline in the ability to do daily tasks may signal a problem.
Functional status exams are designed to look for evidence of this change or
The results of these tests may suggest that the person has become
less able to function independently, but they usually do not point to the
cause. Alzheimer's disease is only one of several possible causes of functional
In this article
This information is produced and provided by the National
Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National
Institute via the Internet web site at http://
.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
October 29, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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