How do you convince someone in denial that their loved one is experiencing sundown syndrome?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 27, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I take care of my friends mother, she has sun down syndrome. Her husband is in complete denial about her condition and he believes stories she tell him, He gives her keys to the car to drive, I feel like there is a great liability on me please advise me.

Expert Answers

Jytte Lokvig, PhD, coaches families and professional caregivers and designs life-enrichment programs and activities for patients with Alzheimer's disease and related dementia. Her workshops and seminars help caregivers and families create a healthy environment based on dignity and humor. She is the author of Alzheimer's A to Z: A Quick-Reference Guide.

It's so hard for us to accept that our loved ones are declining and we just hope against hope that ignoring the signs will make everything return to normal. Your friend's father is in serious denial. His believing her tall tales is likely harmless; however encouraging an incapacitated person to drive is potentially dangerous not only to her but to other drivers and is as irresponsible as when we let our friends drive drunk. Some states' motor vehicle departments will test drivers like your friend's mother. Depending on how she does on the test, her license may be revoked or she may be limited to specific routes.

You should not have any direct liability, but for your peace of mind, I would suggest that you take several steps:

Start by talking to your friend. The two of you should be able to convince the father to stop letting her drive. If you don't succeed and you feel the husband needs to hear it from a "professional," contact the Alzheimer's Association and AARP, specifically about Alzheimer's and driving.

Eventually you may get everyone to go to a support group with you. Once your friend's father learns more about the disease and the effects of waning light, he will come to understand sundown syndrome and be better prepared for future situations.