Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Sundowning is a term that describes the way geriatric patients decline in the evenings. Weakness, confusion... In the morning my father in law is sharp and witty. In the evening he will look around the house where he has lived some 50 years and sadly say, "I used to have a house that was like this."

The sofa where I sat when I first met then some 23 years ago has been replaced by two chairs that gently lift one, two frail people up, up, up to standing, so they can shuffle to the kitchen to be coaxed to eat, before they return to sit by these windows and nap until the aides insist, "it's time to get up and walk. You need to walk, or you'll get weaker."

Some aides insist, and some just can't be bothered. They would rather read, or slip into a nap themselves, and put their hand out on Friday for a paycheck they don't really deserve.

It is a rocky path and a delicate tightrope. Trying to convey information among siblings without seeming to be too accusatory or demanding or unwilling to help... Trying to placate some of the persistent requests that come from boredom, confusion, frustration at loss of independence... from parents who don't understand we all work full time and have kids and their schedules... It's disheartening.

I don't know why the Hallmark channel moved and you can't watch little house on the prairie anymore. But to fix that I have to find a bill, and slip away from my desk tomorrow, and convince someone on an 800 number to give me information and maybe even arrange for a person to come and give you more than shitty basic cable, and yes I will disable the alarm system so we can save THAT money every month since you always have aides with you...

At the end of the day, we sundown a little bit too. We don't want the one additional call from an aide about some item that needs to be purchased, or to think about what happens next in this downward spiral, and what fights will happen when it comes time to sell the house.

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