Over the past few weeks, my father has been displaying signs of what I believe to be Sundowner's Syndrome. I'm not sure how I knew what it was, but when my mom took me aside one morning and told me what was happening, I immediately thought of Sundowners.
I searched the internet to find as much information as I could. I learned that some people display agitation and anger, so I am very grateful that my dad mostly just gets confused.
Thankfully, it typically just happens in the late afternoon or evening. For my dad, this is the case. While he is alert and cognizant during the early part of the day, late afternoons and evenings bring on a sharp change. My mother and father may be eating dinner or watching TV, when my dad will ask "Why are we here?", or "How did we get here?" He woke up (he sleeps for much of the day) late one afternoon and apparently didn't recognize my mother because he asked, "Are you working here?" On another occasion, my dad asked why there was a nurse in the living room—when there surely wasn't.
There isn't a lot we've done to try to combat Sundowners.
Research suggests that exposure to sunlight just before evening will help. But living in Central Ohio means we don't get a lot of sunshine—especially in the winter months. Another suggestion is to alter the routine or use distractions to snap a person out of Sundowners.
One night, my dad engaged me in several lengthy conversations that started with him asking me, "How do we get home from here?" We were sitting in his home. Perhaps distraction could have worked here.
I buried my heartbrokenness as I tried to help him through the difficult conversation. Later, as I closed the door to their apartment, I faced my own grief.
In light of this, I have watched my mother tear up as she tells me about his confusion. But I have also witnessed her become his cheerleader and protector. She lightly jokes and tells him not to forget that she is his wife. My mom is gentle as she helps him understand where he is when he becomes confused.
Each time another symptom of decline presents itself, I am shaken. I see the father I knew fading away.
Of course I knew conditions like this would happen—but knowing it and experiencing it are two very different things. For now, my dad's Sundowners Syndrome is something we all can handle. I can be thankful for that.