At the end of the day, the Alzheimer's patients who experience Sundowners Syndrome, or "sundowning," become irritable, according to author Pat Moffett.

At the end of the day, the Alzheimer's patients who experience Sundowners Syndrome, or "sundowning," become irritable, according to author Pat Moffett.

Moffett, the vice president of Audiovox Electronics Corp. in Hauppauge, N.Y., and author of "Ice Cream in the Cupboard: A True Story of Early Onset Alzheimer's," explained during an all-day caregivers conference on Nov. 19 that his wife was prone to violent outbursts.

The conference was held in the Union County Government Services Building and was designed to bring caregivers of Alzheimer's and related dementias and care providers together to discuss the mind-ravaging diseases and to look at local options.

Moffett picked up the topic of "sundowning" after fellow panelist Joe Thompson of Marysville said it was the last greatest problem his late wife experienced.

Placing his wife in a nursing home, according to Thompson, was traumatic.

"It was the saddest day of my life," he said, his voice cracking with emotion.

Moffett's wife, who has had the disease for 12 years and has not been able to recognize him during the last six, would go from being a loving wife and mother to ranting and raving while hitting or choking him.

In trying to distract her, he said, he saved some of the happier things in a day for the evening when she was likely to be irritable.

One favorite thing to do was to watch "Jeopardy."

Before losing her memory, Moffett said, his wife was a great reader. They loved watching the TV show together and answering the questions.

The ability to participate was lost to his wife in the months before she was placed in a nursing home, but she seemed comforted by staring at the television set and saying good-night to host Alex Trebek.

It was after the Alzheimer's had taken its toll that Trebek referred to the biggest population of Africa is in Ethopia with the concentration in its capital. Moffett was stunned when his wife blurted out, "What is Addis Ababa."

"So I picked up the Aricept," he said, referring to her medication, "and thought 'this is some pretty powerful stuff here. I might want a little bit of this.'"

The comical face he made prompted the audience to laugh.

"For that moment," he said, "I had her back."

Laughter, according to Moffett, keeps the caregiver going. "You have to laugh with the patient, not at the patient," he said.

More than one of the caregivers gave way to both laughter and tears during the day of lectures, role-playing, shared experiences and information gathering.

Anita Davis, a resident of Richwood who also served on the panel, said she and her husband, Don, live on a 100-acre farm.

"There was just lots of places for Don to go on the farm that he had been used to walking over 55 years," she said, explaining that the sheriff's deputies have been to their place twice with Life Rescue. The fire department also has been out.

Spotting a firefighter who works with the sheriff's office in the audience, Davis asked if he was at their home.

"Which time?" he asked, eliciting laughter from Davis and the audience.

Sheriff Rocky Nelson told caregivers that if they have problems picking up someone who has fallen, call his office for help.

"We like helping people," he said, "not always going out and getting the bad guys."

Davis said she tries to keep her sense of humor around her husband, but one day she was feeling sad about something.

"Tears came to my eyes," she said. "I looked over and Don was crying."

Her eyes clouded over with tears once more as she thought of the incident.

Mildred Raush said her late husband, who was handy with tools before the disease, could not tell a regular screwdriver from a Phillips screwdriver as the disease progressed.

"Sundowning" and hallucinations also affected her husband.

"Therapeutic fibbing is OK," she told fellow caregivers.

She advised the caregivers to get a sitter for respite care and go out to lunch or do something to take their minds off of the situation for a while.

"As time goes on, you will forget the bad things," she said.

Cathy Davis said she had to make the decision in 2003 to become her mother's guardian.

"It was the hardest day of my life," she said, "to say she was not competent. We did everything we could to keep her at home."

Caregivers were advised not to argue with the Alzheimer's patients, but to try other tactics for distracting them.

Moffett said he learned not to hold his wife's wrists or to shake her when she began hitting him. Instead, he learned to duck.

"I would just bury my head and say. 'Stop beating me, you're hurting me' and she would go, 'I would never beat you, I love you,'" he recalled.

Dick Douglass, director of Union County Senior Services, said additional programs related to Alzheimer's and related dementias will be held.

"You are not alone," he said. "Plenty of people are working behind the scenes."