My 90 year old mother who has COPD, congestive heart failure and dementia lives with us (me, my husband and my 9 year old daughter) and I'm fairly certain she was sundowning last night. It's the first time I've witnessed a behavior at this time of day that immediately made me think "sundowning," but that isn't to say it's the first time it's happened. I'm learning behaviors/terminology as we go.
So here's the scenario: Relatives had visited a few hours prior & the visit had been good. At dinnertime, mom was happily washing a few dishes in the sink (she loves this activity) & my husband asked her to move because he had something hot in his hands that needed to go into the sink. Her mood switched instantly. She stormed off her to bedroom & refused to eat dinner with us. The few words we could get her to speak to us (she loves a good silent treatment) conveyed that she'd never enter our kitchen again. (Oh, the drama! Story of my life with this woman.) My husband tried to hold back the eye rolls and apologize multiple times so we could have a peaceful family dinner, but she wasn't buying what he was selling and sulked in her room while we ate.
About an hour later I decided to spend some time with her & see how she was doing. She initiated a conversation about her parents. Specifically about their immigration from Poland & assimilation into the US culture. She specifically focused on how well they spoke English after a few years living in the US. I commented that, yes, that was quite an accomplishment seeing as how English is one of the hardest languages to learn. Boom! It was like some invisible lightening bolt shot through her room. Her entire mood shifted again - and this time WAY more dramatically, severely and instantly than the kitchen incident. She laid into me hard for "insulting and attacking her mother." She accused me of insinuating her mother was stupid. "My mother might not have been some college educated executive like you but she was an angel. How dare you talk about her like that!" She really ranted and raved. The more I tried to calm her down, the worse it got until she was full blown hysterical.
I should've walked away but it was bedtime and I didn't want to leave her in this state alone (her bedroom is only one on the 1st floor. So, I raised my voice because she wouldn't pause in her rant to take a breath and I wanted her to hear and understand what I had really said, a compliment about her parents. She did hear me and just lost it. She started sobbing like the day my father died. She kept ranting too but at that point I could not understand anything she was saying to me. My husband came into the room, took one shocked look at her and told me to leave the room. He closed the door behind him and refused to let me back in to try to settle her down. He told me there's nothing more we can do, she's up in her own head and we need to just let her wear herself out. So we went to bed. This morning there was a letter from her waiting for me on the kitchen table. It started with an apology but pretty immediately afterward devolved into something entirely different. Crazy stuff. "You live in a new world and I should know better because you know everything. All I've ever wanted so badly is just to go shopping with my daughter but that's just a stupid silly dream." [Side note: I've spent over 500 bloody dollars this week alone because she wanted new clothes for fall. And yes, I know dementia = brain damage but mother plunker, give me a break]. "You can take all that I have. You've already sold my house for far less than I paid for it. Take everything and leave me with nothing. You want the money not a mother." [Of course this financial stuff is also untrue but I've given up trying to explain math to a dementia patient] "I'm going to sit by the window in my room and never speak again. When people call to chat with me just tell them that we've decided it's best if you never have to tolerate my voice again. Now I will know better and will stay out of your way and never make a sound again for as long as I live. I'm sorry for being such a rotten mother." Great way to start the day, huh? And mind you....grammar, punctuation, spelling, penmanship...all on point for the most part. So anyway...there's this current sh*t show of dysfunction thanks to dementia. But the larger problem is that this is just the latest in a long series of delusions that my mother has wherein I am the villain always verbally attacking her in some way and she's the victim. "Go ahead, take it all from me." God, the things she's said about me over the years. I always thought she was just a spiteful, lying a-hole but now I think the dementia has gone back way, way longer than we suspected. Regardless, how do you perform the primary caregiver function when your dementia parent has false negative delusions about you? Any tips?