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:
In my dad's case, we hired a PSW to come in a support him, one-on-one, in the evening when he was most at risk: angry, beligerant, anxious, irritated, irritable and irritating.
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 -
Now, WKS this explains a lot in some of the people with whom I have worked. In conjunction with alcohol abuse - obviously, is a general lack of good nutrition. The brain atrophies, and the person creates a lot of coping strategies. This makes the case for those who judge addicts, since we know that many people with dementia can cover it up for a long time. They know what they don't know, and can go back in time. One client keeps speaking of 'the operation I'm going to have', which was many, many years ago. He has fooled his friends around this issue. This is why a medical test for dementia is an important issue for those caring for geriatrics, and before discharge from hospital into ALC. (Alternate Levels of Care) 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
If caught early it is treatable. In later stages the damage in long-lasting, leaving complications in motor skills, amnesia, and brain damage. With the acceptance of alcohol, many addicts are enabled by friends and family who may purchase and deliver alcohol, or give such as gifts to family members. While a person has a right to their dignity and humanity, there is a fine line between enabling alcohol abuse, and controlling another's life.
By Karen Quemby Friday, January 8, 2010 Question: Can too much alcohol cause dementia? Last month I probably left you feeling good about the benefits of red wine on the brain and I signed off by saying that if you feel like a glass of red wine to go ahead but just make sure that you don’t over indulge.