Monday, October 26, 2015

Sun Downing Behavior Management: "Would You like Some Pizza?"

Lori was exhausted. Her husband was preparing for a major teaching project, and was, "in," and "out," of the house spending more time at the office than at home. He was the domestic partner who always cleaned, cooked, took out the garbage and actually enjoyed doing the laundry. "How do these women do it?" Lori thought as she scrubbed the showers, vacuumed the floor, dusted the end tables, bleached the toilets, changed the bedding and laundered the clothes. With her teen-aged daughter still awake at 11:30PM on a Saturday night and her mother fast asleep, Lori was more ready than ever to go to bed.

"Lights out by 1AM young lady!" "Oh mom, it's Saturday. Can't I stay up even later than 1AM?" Lori's daughter was persistent, but Lori said, "No, 1AM is your latest weekend bedtime!" As Lori and her daughter said their ."Good-nights," Lori checked in on her mother and noticed that her mother was sleeping soundly like a baby. This made Lori very happy.

Lori contributed to her mother's good night's sleep in several ways. She made sure that her mother got some walking exercise in during the day. Her mother would participate in activities around the house, she would fold clothes, chop vegetables, put dishes away, etc. Lori had word searches for her, she would play classical music, play with the dog, interact with friends that came to visit, etc. After dinner and teeth brushing, when it was time to retire for the night, Lori would give her mother (after originally clearing this with Lori's mother's doctor), a Melatonin sleep spray. (See our natural living tab on this blog for more info.) The Sleep Spray, being a combination of natural supplements, along with stimulation during the day appeared to work well to regulate Lori's mother's natural sleep cycle.

Before knowing the importance of putting these sleep assured practices in place, through daily exercise etc., there were episodes of Sun Downing,* (anxiety at night causing endless wandering and bizarre behaviors experienced by people suffering from dementia), that happened on a regular basis which made Lori and her family question if they could handle her mother's bizarre wandering behaviors. After taking online and local seminars on caregiving/carepartnering for people living with dementia, Lori was able to develop her own techniques. Sun Downing can be very hard to handle.  During Sun Downing episodes, Lori's mother appeared to come to life at night when everyone else was sleeping. She would turn on all of the lights in the house, burst through bedroom doors like a rambling drunk, take the car keys and try to drive Lori's car, wander up and down the basement steps, take all of the pictures off the walls, blast the TV, prepare food by leaving the gas stove on, etc  ALL at 3 or 4 AM!!  When this first started happening, Lori was overwhelmed, and had no idea of what to do.  But with proper training, the torment,(on both sides), turned into healing opportunities and the behavioral challenges ended. It is very important to remember that there is ALWAYS a reason for these behaviors, and if we learn the importance of the "why," and let go of our judgments, miracles can happen. Below is an example of a recent occurrence, and how Lori resolved it using proper communication techniques.

 "Mom, Mom!!!!" Lori's daughter was frantically trying to wake her. Lori opened her eyes and her daughter said, "She came into the room while I was watching TV,  wanting to know if I had any siblings, Mom. Do you think she has forgotten who I am??"  "Don't worry," said Lori . "You just go to bed, Grandma is sleep walking and is in a dream state. I'll take care of her." "Thanks, Mom, " said Lori's daughter. "And don't worry, your grandmother will remember you in the morning, okay?" It was after 1AM.

Lori entered her living room to find all the lights on and her mother fully dressed in a blue silk blouse (Lori's blouse), black slacks, her hair primped and sprayed, lipstick on her lips and her teeth in. "Well, hello. It's so great to see you!" Lori's mother's voice and mannerisms took on the tone of a hostess at a cocktail party welcoming a long lost friend. "It's great to see you, too!" Lori matched her mother's tone and character. "Well, are you hungry? Can you stay long?" Lori's mother was energized and ready to serve her. Let's see what we have." Lori followed her mother into her own kitchen. "Would you like some pizza? " ( Lori's mother thought she was in her own kitchen, and Lori was a guest.)  Lori told her mother she just wanted a glass of water. So, Lori and her mother sat on Lori's couch. Lori sipped her glass of water with her head dosing and her legs crossed,  and her mother said nothing. They sat in the silence together at 1:30AM, (Lori fighting the urge to fall asleep, trying desperately to stay awake),  both women looking forward, staring at the wall, not uttering a word. Lori just waited and waited, intuitively knowing that she needed to follow her mother's lead, and that something very important that her mother had been holding in her brain for YEARS possibly, was about to emerge. And boy, was she RIGHT!!!

Lori's mother said, "My mother never approved of my friendship with the Paris family." (Not their real name.) As soon as Lori's mother started leading the conversation, Lori followed her into her own world by asking specific questions about her present statements without ever asking the question, "why." (See Validation by Naomi Feil, MSW) "WAS there a reason for your mother's disapproval?" Then Lori's mother's eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. "OOOOHH YES there was a reason, and you won't believe it!" Now they were connecting. Lori's mother was about to spill the beans on something she had been holding onto for years. "What was the reason that made your mother so upset?"  And then Lori's mother even shocked Lori by telling her about a very close family member that was the result of an affair by another close family member which was hidden from Lori's family for generations!!!    "How did you feel about this when it happened, mother?" "I resented him. "  She then went on to share that this particular person was a neglectful, quiet alcoholic who made her feel unsafe, and even unloved at times. And out of the blue she said, "He had a hearing problem, too!" Was that possibly her way of saying that she didn't feel heard? Interesting.  "I'm tired Lori. I think I better go back to bed, "said Lori's mother. Lori's mother then, on her own went back to bed.

 During the exchange, tons of sharing was happening, and what amazed Lori was her mothers vocal tone, physical gestures and mannerisms, which all reflected her pre-dementia state of being. The more Lori's mother was feeling heard, the more she was being freed, and her body language was expressing this freedom.  It was as if Lori's mother had lost the dementia completely, and had returned to the person she was before she had been given her diagnosis.

This momentary return to the pre-dementia state happened once before between Lori and her mother shortly after Lori had some training on proper ways of handling these bizarre behaviors, and one day Lori's mother ended Lori's questions with a few questions of her own. "Do you have any more questions for us?" It was never: "Do you have any more questions for me ."  It was always," Do you have anymore questions for us."

  When this would happen, Lori, (for lack of a better comparison), would feel as if she was watching  her mother taking on the role of psychic, or highly evolved spiritual leader channeling information from the spirit world, because the questions she would ask Lori were very surprising. Questions such as: "What would you like to do with the rest of your life while you are still here on earth?" And observations like: "I feel God's presence," etc.   

This was and is very confusing to Lori, but what isn't confusing to Lori,  is that midnight wandering and confusion called Sun Downing is not something that needs to be suppressed. It is coming up for a reason. The Sun Downing activities and behaviors are directly related to unresolved or suppressed emotions that need to be expressed in order to be released, and Sun Downing is a very important part of the healing process, leading to the transition state or end of life liberation of the soul. Naomi Feil, MSW once put it this way,(to paraphrase). "They are packing their last suitcase and need to get rid of excess baggage before making their final journey home."

 So, the healing that Lori speaks of is not a healing from dementia, but a healing from the mental suffering that causes the dis-connect, or confused cognition in the first place. Caregivers and care-partners are certainly not psychotherapists, but they can learn a verbiage that can create a momentary release from inner suffering,  creating deep connections between care-partners and carers. The art and skill of using positive communication techniques, offers people experiencing dementia opportunities to not only release their emotional baggage, but to live in a state of contentment while they are still with us here on earth. And by releasing, rather than suppressing these emotions, individuals can become consciously aware of their peaceful presence in the NOW, fearlessly embracing the wings of freedom they will be given by the angels when their time comes, to fly home to God.    

 When Lori's mother woke up she had no recollection of what had happened during the night. She played with the dog, laughed and went about her day.

It is ironic to think that ALL of our modern day scientific research on dementia embraces a theory that was arrived at 100 years ago by performing an autopsy on a section of a cadaver's brain. Wouldn't it make more sense to study behavior rather than brain pathology???  Perhaps there will one day be a way to study both ways, and to fully honor the sacred wisdom of aging.

(Sun Downing * definition by Merriam/Webster Dictionary)

Positive Communication methods for people living with dementia:  We recommend seminars by Teepa Snow,M.S., OTR/L.FAOTA, Naomi Feil, MSW,, and her books, all of them. And the life changing, ground breaking books, "Contented Dementia," by Dr. Oliver James, "The Mindful Caregiver," by Nancy L. Kriseman, and "Deeper Into The Soul," by Nader Robert Shabahangi, Ph.D, and Bogna Szymkiewicz, Ph.D

Copyright 2015 Caregivers Get Fit! Mama  Nicey

The information in this blog is information. It is not meant to be a replacement for getting medical advice from your own health professional regarding your own individual health challenge or condition. Dr. Denise will not diagnose, treat, or give direct personal consultations/advice to you on this blog for any medical condition, but will give general examples, and scientific research on many different health topics.  How you decide to use the information is between you and your own medical/ health professional.

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