21 September 2015

Words 8

Sundowning.

New one to me. Noun. Verb.

One evening Peter was wandering the fourth floor hallway of the apartment complex, knocking on doors. His live-in partner Shirley watched him, slumped by the elevators. I greeted him as I passed.

"He's sundowning," she said. Doors were popping open.

"Why are you knocking on doors, Peter?" Shirley asked for the benefit of the audience.

"I'm trying to find out what's going on," Peter said mildly.


Sundowning is a subset behaviour of confusion, anxiety, or belligerence in people with dementia, occurring at a certain time of day, usually evening. Wandering may be part of it.

The coinage elicits mixed feelings. Whereas one could say what the symptoms mean, i.e. "late day worsening," sundowning is a gentle word, quite apt. 

But it also carries that connotation of approaching end ... not simply the end of the day but the increasing loss of familiarity in a loved one. And naturally, the closure of life itself.

I visualize Harry Chapin "All my life's a circle, sunrise and sundown ...".

Like cancer and depression, dementia affects almost every family in some way.

"Seems like I've been here before, can't remember when ...". Music has power.

  

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