Sundowning is a psychological phenomenon associated with increased confusion and restlessness in patients with some form of dementia. Most commonly associated with Alzheimer's disease, but also found in those with mixed dementia, the term "sundowning" was coined due to the timing of the patient's confusion. For patients with sundowning syndrome, a multitude of behavioral problems begin to occur in the evening or while the sun is setting. Sundowning seems to occur more frequently during the middle stages of Alzheimer's disease and mixed dementia. Patients are generally able to understand that this behavioral pattern is abnormal. Sundowning seems to subside with the progression of a patient's dementia. Research shows that 20–45% of Alzheimer's patients will experience some sort of sundowning confusion.
I made a deal with my son today: if he helped me purchase and move a dresser for Alice, my mother's nurse, from Craig's List this morning, I would feed our friend Katherine's cat for him this evening. He took it.
While at Katherine's (after the Dutch pulverized Brazil) at around 8pm, I was chatting away with my very best friend in North Carolina and a call from my mother came in on my cell phone. This is never good. I took the call and heard our wonderful sub nurse on the line, stating that my mother wanted to speak with me. This is rarely good.
My mom got on and was having great difficulty talking, but she managed to utter something to the effect of: "Cruelty is happening here. Take…my…word…please!"
My stomach fell. I froze. I didn't know what to do. Alice was off this evening, but our sub nurse is amazing. She's great! She would never abuse my mother. I found myself asking for specifics on the phone and half-way believing that my mother could not be making this up-she could not call me desperate for help, if she were not, truly, in dire straights. Fortunately, before I dropped the cat food and hung up, I asked to speak with the nurse. She assured me that my mother was fine, safely sitting in her new recliner after having had dinner. She was disoriented and agitated as she often is whenever Alice leaves, but that they were not fighting or arguing and she was not in any danger.
So, I decided to wait 15 minutes and call again before dropping everything, including ordering take out for Jonathan and me for dinner. I called Sugar in NC back and she helped talk me through my knee-jerk panic reaction and assured me that thinking about my next move was wise.
After I got our dinner and was home, I texted the nurse to see if it was a good time to call. "Your mother is sleeping," she informed me.
Sleeping! I'm in a panic and feeling awful for not 'rescuing' her, and she went to sleep!
I asked the nurse to let me know if my mother woke up or seemed distressed by the lack of my arrival. I haven't heard anything yet.
Each day is a new experience. I HOPE this is helping someone.