Sundowners is described as a mood disorder in which the individual becomes upset or confused in the late afternoon or early evening.  As the sun sets, the light changes and makes things look different.  The changes in the light seems to trigger the person's agitation.  That's the understanding we were given of it when Lyn was diagnosed.  However, Sundowners is actually much more than a simple mood disorder.

Sundowners is recognized as a precursor of dementia or Alzheimers.  From all the descriptions I've read of Sundowners, it is described as a condition of the elderly.  However, Lyn was diagnosed with Sundowners when she was 26.  Maybe we should have realized that the Sundowners was more than what we thought.  However, we got used to Lyn's new reality with Sundowners.  It was easily managed and we were able to keep her agitation to a pretty low level.

Lyn is generally OK during the afternoon and evening if she's in her own environment where she has a lot of control over things and knows the routine.  If she's out of her environment, she expresses her agitation by verbally lashing out or bursting into tears.

If Lyn's not in her environment or if her routine is different, then we see her agitation increase.  For example, if we're going out to dinner with her, we go early and anticipate leaving as soon as the bill is paid.  There is no such thing as lingering over coffee when Lyn's with us.  If Lyn travels, we set up the travel environment to be as calm and similar to her home environment as possible.  This means that we give her a space that she either has exclusively to herself or only shares with Mom.  Since she and Mom live over 1,000 miles away from me, we make sure Lyn has a room just for her use during her visits.  She may still have an outburst, especially tears, but in the morning, all is well.

We have noticed over the years that travel has become more and more difficult for her.  Day trips are still manageable at this time.  After her recent visit to my home, however, we're not sure that she'll be able to travel again for any extended stays.


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