What can I do if my mother-in-law keeps mixing up the hours of her day?

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We hear her go into the kitchen and start fixing "breakfast". This can happen at 11:30 pm when she's only been in bed an hour or so, or in the early hours of the moring, like 2 or 3 am. We tell her it's the middle of the night and she needs to go back to bed. She'll go, usually. But the next day she uses the excuse that she can't read the clock right. She can during the day, we've tested. But when she wakes in the night like that it's as if she has no concept of the time or how much time has passed. She's also started talking about it being "almost Christmas". It is May, and we can't get that across. Any suggestions or is this type of muddled behavior normal for an 87 year old?

Answers 1 to 10 of 13
CSAW, My mom gets up several times during the night too. She also "sundowns" and mutters and says she wants to die. It can get very loud that I can't sleep. My mom also gets day and night mixed up too. Tonight is the first night we are using a night Aide. I need sleep!!!!!
My mother-in-law has macular degeneration so it's terribly hard for her to read her watch. So I got her a talking wrist watch, and she loves it. She sleeps with it at night, so when she wakes for some reason she just pushes ONE button and knows what time it is. With her dementia I only got a watch that had one button to push for the time, the other button is for winding and even she knows not to mess with that one.
I had a talking clock for my mom too. We got it at Radio Shack. You could set the clock to announce the hour on a regular basis or if you'd like push the bar on the top of the clock and it will annouce the time.
Very helpful suggestions on talking watches & clocks. I'm going to look for one of those. Every evening my father-in-law asks if it's going to get dark again, sometimes he says "is this going to be another dark day" ... he can't understand why somtimes at 7:00 by his wall clock with the very large black numbers and hands, it is dark and sometimes it's light outside. He also asks what day it is and sometimes asks the date. Would be nice to find a clock that "speaks" the date as well so he can remind himself.
Top Answer
I would write the day of the month and day on a paper plate and leave it on the table to help remind my mom what day and month it was. Or a large post-it note on the frig.
I like that talking watch idea. Beyond that, you have little choice but to meet her when you hear her in the kitchen and send her back to bed. It's best to do it every time like it's never happened before. The alternative is to hassle her for a behavior that she does not have the power to change. Every successful attempt to make this situation better, with the possible exception of the talking watch, will be the result of changes in your behavior. You have control over that. She probably doesn't have control over hers. Good Luck. God Bless You.
My own physician tells me that an elderly person is very much like a baby. You have to put everything in plain sight with huge labels. I'm a strong believer in Wall Calendars, large clocks, good lighting etc.. Point and repeat.
Now for the other situation: When my first baby came home from the hospital,
she got her days and nights reversed. The doctor told me: At night close everything down. Make all the drapes dark and turn off all the lights and sounds. No night lights either. In the morning, open up everything. Drapes, doors, Curtains etc. p.s. At age 87, she should not be "cooking"...whether it be gas or electric.
csaw.....you are dealing with a symptom of dementia. Occasionally my mother-in-law will get up in the middle of the night and take her morning medications. So far we haven't had the problem with her cooking. Does your mil react to the clock or just the fact that she has been asleep and her mind says "I'm awake now so I have to get up"? I have a clock in my bedroom for my own use, that reflects on the ceiling and I can make the numbers big and make them bright or dim. Perhaps you could try that method with your mil and have the clock reflect military time. That means if she normally gets up at 7 am, the clock would reflect that, if it's at night it would say 1900 so she would know it's not time to get up yet. Give the upcoming Christmas holiday a few days and her mind will take her onto something else to talk or worry about. Hope this helps maybe a little. I know it's a difficult thing when the time gets all messed up. When I take meds to mil in the evening, she gets that nights to take right then and I leave the pill container with her morning meds on her kitchen windowsill. If she gets up and takes them in the middle of the night, she will then later at the regular time, swear I am withholding meds and DID NOT take them to her. I try to explain what she has done and she will argue that she has not taken them and I finally have to just tell her no....you are not getting anymore.

Good Luck!
I wish I'd had this kind of site when my Gram was alive. She, too, had difficulty knowing anything about when it was currently. With this info, I would have put a cork board in her room, and had a calender on it, with the days crossed off. And a talking clock is a really good idea. What we did do was remind her each time she asked. She asked about every ten minutes, and then we had to go into the 'List'. All her nine brothers and sisters, when they died, and her parents. It was just so sad watching her absorb this info each time. But, in her more lucid moments, she said she did not want us to pretend they were alive. She said she knew, since she knew she was dying, that they'd be there ahead of her and able to help her get used to being dead. I hope they were there, waiting for her with love and smiles.

For now, my mother is beginning with the dementia process, and she uses her computer to tell her the day and time. (although sometimes she forgets she has the computer -- sigh) My hubby just asks, when he's in his sepsis induced dementia stage. He's been there a lot in the last few years. He knows to ask now, but the beginning of it was difficult to say the least. Thank God he's being finally treated for it and it's actually clearing his mind. He's back to his old, irritated self, and it's so heartening. :D
I have the exact same problem with my 90-yr-old mom who lives with us. Last night at 10:00 pm as we were going to bed, she was getting up and getting dressed for the day. At 3:00 this morning she left a voice mail on my office phone, asking if I was there and when I'd be coming home. The fact that it's dark outside and the lights and TV are off does not seem to clue her in that it's the middle of the night. All of our clocks have been replaced with big industrial looking clocks that tell the time, day, date and temperature, but that doesn't seem to help.

I've bought some index cards and I'm going to write the days of the week on a card (one day per card.) I'll write "day" and "night" on two more cards. Then "Gary and Jill are sleeping," "Gary and Jill are at work," "Gary is at a meeting," et cetera, on additional cards. I'm hoping by laying out the right combination of cards each morning and night, it will help her know what time and day it is.

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