wings and things


When the day begins to close its curtains on the sun, people with advanced dementia often become restless. This kind of agitation is called ‘Sundowner syndrome’ and I’ve written about it before.

Anthony is definitely affected by the syndrome and, by around 4pm, he is quietly distressed and confused. I am adapting as well as I can to the difference between 11am and 5pm; i.e. at 11am Ants is lucid and able to express himself verbally, but by 3pm he sometimes thinks that the television show (at the moment Doc Martin) is actually happening in real life, and by 4pm he begins to descend into such a state of confusion that when I say, “Okay I’m off to get some wine”, he just replies, “Don’t be too long, Jules!”

The domestic and care staff at this nursing home are so wonderful and many have become friends; they all know that it is best to say to Anthony that ‘Jules will be back soon’.

Today I bumped into the wife of a beautiful man who, before he died a year ago, was next door to Anthony. She is elderly too and using a walking frame. Let’s call her Trudy.

Trudy: So how is your husband?

Me: Very confused now … well, you know how it is.

Trudy: You wonder what they are really thinking don’t you.

Me: Yes. You must miss him so much.

Trudy: It’s a year now.

And her eyes filled up.

Anthony and I are so lucky to have each other and he is luckier than most because he has a younger wife who is determined to ensure he is cared for. It is a bit of a unique situation because most of the residents’ spouses are either deceased or struggling with their own health challenges.

When I visited a totally lucid 95-year-old woman today, she expressed so much concern about her 70-ish son that I felt a bit awestruck by her courage and compassion.

Jane: He had to have a shoulder operation.

Me: So when will he be back?

Jane: So what’s your name again?

Me: Julie – you know, my husband is two rooms down. How’s your pain?

Jane: It’s not the pain, I just feel so exhausted all the time as if I’ve been run over by something.

Me: Like a truck?


I want to keep writing about this ongoing story of dementia; I want to critique the various interventions that are in place; but I also just want to BE with Ants.



Sundown syndrome

The other day a friend mentioned this so I googled it and am stunned because it explains what has begun to happen¬†to Anthony every evening! Other terms used are ‘sundowning’,¬†‘sundowner’s syndrome’ and ‘sundowners syndrome’. Here is a link to one ‘take’ on this very real problem.

Sundown syndrome is an offshoot of dementia and usually happens as the sun goes down and light turns to dark, but it can also happen at sunrise. Some theories suggest that it has something to do with the 24 hour ‘brain clock’ that responds to changes in light. Other than this it seems to be a bit of a mystery. A person with dementia may be calm during the day but become agitated in the evening, sometimes quite dramatically.

Symptoms can include things like agitation, restlessness, aggressiveness, increased confusion, hallucinations, paranoia and a whole gamut of ‘out-of-character’ behaviours. This is the best explanation I have found yet to explain the last few weeks of Anthony’s increasing bewilderment and misery in the evenings.

Sunset, for Anthony and many others, is not beautiful.