Experts do not really know. It could be caused by lack of light, fatigue, changing routines, changing life passages, lack of support. It is a syndrome that family members spot in the evening. Common emotional and psychoscial symptoms include:
I have written previously about Sundowner's Syndrome
What is it?
- rapid mood changes, fatigue, confusion, frustration, anger, crying, depression, stubbornness, fearfulness, hallucinations, paranoia and agitation.
In some cases, the self-medication for this syndrome has been alcohol. There is a difference between Sundowners and alcohol abuse.
For seniors, living alone with access to liquor and beer, or a liquor store, this is a result of their depression, loneliness, and inability to come to terms with their changing circumstances.
One concern about excess alcohol is that it can cause dementia. *Karen Quemby, Education Coordinator for the Alzheimer Society of Ottawa, wrote an excellent piece for our local paper. I summarize it here for you.
She explains that the alcohol-related dementia is a neurological disorder that causes confusion and affects memory. In the late 1800s, Wernicke and Korsakoff found that in acute and chronic phases of this disease, 'encephalopathy results from acute deficiency of Vitamin B1, thiamine.'
It is called Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS). There are two aspects to it.
- Wernicke's encephalophy -
- Korsakoff's psychosis -
Symptoms of WKS
- confabulation - inventing information to compensate for poor memory
- chronic memory disorder for short-term events
- natural conversations and normal recall of long-term events, people, places, things
- impaired ability to learn new information or complete new tasks
- ataxia - weaknesses in limbs, lack of muscle control
- raid eye movements
- sense of smell
- damage to nervous system - decreased or abnormal reflexes
- damage to muscle systems - slow walking, coordination issues
- paralysis of eye muscles
- diminished fine motor function - hand and finger muscles
- low body temperature
- low blood pressure
- fast heart rate
- the appearance of malnutrition
Criterea for alcohol abuse
- 35 drinks/ week for men
- 28 drinks /week for women
- over a five year period
- period of significant drinking with 3 years of diagnosis of dementia