Let the Sundowning begin. Come howl at the Moon…..

The next scheduled moon phase is due on November 6, 2010 when a new moon makes its debut; a full moon waits in the wings to wreak its havoc on November 21st.

While my mother lived with us, life was dictated by the lunar calendar.  Episodes of Sundowning were always at their peak during a moon cycle and the consequences of her tirades generated many sleepless nights for everyone within hearing distance of her outbursts.  The subject of so-called full moon insanity is one of much debate with scientists rushing to spew out data on what they feel is folklore, media effects, tradition, misconceptions or cognitive biases surrounding human or animal behavior during any moon phase.

Ivan Kelly, James Rotton and Roger Culver (1996) examined over 100 studies on lunar effects and concluded that the studies have failed to show a reliable and significant correlation (i.e., one not likely due to chance) between the full moon, or any other phase of the moon, and each of the following:
-the homicide rate
-traffic accidents
-crisis calls to police or fire stations
-domestic violence
-births of babies
-major disasters
-casino payout rates
-aggression by professional hockey players
-violence in prisons

-psychiatric admissions [one study found admissions were lowest during a full moon]
-agitated behavior by nursing home residents
-gunshot wounds
-emergency room admissions [
but see]
-behavioral outbursts of psychologically challenged rural adults

-sleep walking

I completely disagree with Kelly, Rotton and Culver on several of their assessments.  For example, these scientists did not live in my home for three years listening to my mother perform her dementia-operetta whenever the moonlight danced through the window of her room.  Millions of people continue to believe as I do, disregarding studies that pigeonhole these psychotic behaviors as nothing more than lunar myths.

Nursing homes have been a main source of reports concerning patients who, during a moon phase, are highly agitated, bang on walls, scream, yell and, even wearing a WanderGuard, manage an escape now and then from the facilities that house them.

Where my mother was concerned, I was often amazed at her agility during her episodes of Sundowning.  Alzheimer’s disease had re-located her mind to some fifty years, or more, in the past; back to a time when she was a young woman, full of piss and vinegar and able to get around most obstacles that blocked her path.  Now in her eighties, frail and unsteady when she walked, when a full moon was at its peak, so was mother.  She would yell for hours, manage to untie her bed restraint, undress herself and make a break for it.  Stopping any escape would be met with her clenched fists and notable profanity as she was led back to her room.  Usually within an hour of settling her down the rampage would start all over again.  Mom would always manage to drift off to sleep just when it was time to get her up and going for the day, never exhibiting an ounce of exhaustion from the long night before.

Certainly, the light shed by a full moon can mimic daylight for a mentally compromised individual, even for domesticated and wild animals.  Time to howl at the moon, waken everyone in the surrounding area and get up and walk around. 

My mother did just that whenever the giant, glowing, cheesehead grinned down from the heavens.