Anyone have any ideas on how to handle an 88 year old female with "Sundowners" syndrome?


She still lives alone and is completely cognizant about everything else in her life. Can talk about current events, has good memory etc. In the evenings though, she says a "gang" is operating around her place. They put wires on the roof, take pictures of her through the windows and put white powder all over everything inside and outside her home. She gets mad if you try to use reason and logic to show her that there is nothing there. Absolutely believes these "gremlins" are there but mind seems fine otherwise. We are not sure what to do with her?

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I'm sorry to tell you that it is likely this woman has dementia or Alzheimer's, however there are 50+ other illnesses that can have these symptoms, so she needs to be see by someone who can determine what is wrong with her. She won't believe you if you tell her something is wrong with her. The most important thing to do right now is get her to her doctor's office and write a note to the doctor documenting what you have observed. Give this note to the receptionist to give to the doctor. The doctor will do a series of tests including a mini mental status exam, likely a head CT, urinalysis and blood work.

Your situation sounds a great deal like my situation with my mother 2 years ago - she could still drive, but thought she was being robbed nightly and was constantly wanting to call the police. If it turns out this 88 year old female has dementia or Alzheimer's, it is important to get her legal papers in order immediately. Someone will need both medical and financial POA to be able to take care of her.

There is a free book you can read on the internet about this called "Understanding the Dementia Experience" by Jennifer Ghent-Fuller. I recommend you read this as it will explain to you how to talk to someone with dementia/Alz. It also explains the arc of the disease and the prognosis. It is painful to read, especially, if this 88 year old female is a relative of yours, but it is better to know what is going on and what will happen and how to work with her, than not know. Likely this woman could benefit from medication to calm her agitation and hallucinations such as Risperdone. Talk to her doctor about this - but not in front of her.
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This is late stage Alzheimer's type activity and the person should move to a memory care facility. Soon she will wander outside and get lost or freeze to death. You didn't mention medications, but the wrong mix of meds can trigger these type of hallucinations. This is a serious issue and you need to see the MD ASAP.
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