RachelDevin Asked December 2009

How do I help my 94-year-old father with his distorted sense of time?

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How do I help my father with his distortion of time? My 94 year old father has come to the point that he can't distinguish time of day. Mid-day he'll think it's time to go to bed or he'll get up in the morning, wash, then start the same process all over again. Last night he put on his pajamas for dinner. I know he's at the point where he needs CONSTANT attention. Everything seems so hard, because he's positive he's right. I know it's part of the disease, but I am soooo tired.

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EXPERT Carol Bradley Bursack Dec 2009
You've got to be exhausted. Yes, it's part of the disease. The only things I can advise is that you try to get some outside help to get a break to do something for yourself (or sleep), and that you try not to let it bother you if he has his pjs on for dinner. However, in the end, that doesn't matter a whole lot. Since he needs help with everything, this does add to your work and that is the hard part.

It's all about confusion, and it's sad to watch him go through this, but it's not unusual. Please try to get a break now and then.

Carol
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195Austin Dec 2009
It seems to me when I visit my friend in the nursing home haveing a large clock in their rooms help the residents with the time of day.
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NP Jan 2010
I re-read the article, but found that it seemed to relate more to parent's that still had somewhat of a concept of time. I can tell Mom that she has a Dr's appt in 5 mins but when I am there to pick her up at that time, she has no clue why I'm even there. Can't explain or reason with her on this issue at all. I've noticed that along with this confusion about time came problems with numbers. She can't write down phone #'s and often needs helping in dialing those that she can read. Can't seem to process the #'s from piece of paper to how to dial on the phone. I should have clarified on my earlier comment that the meds (Aracept) that the Dr took my mom off of was to help her sleep problems NOT this issue of time. Wish there was a pill that could solve that!
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NP Jan 2010
I have this same problem with my 89 yr old Mother. She's still in assisted living and they have noticed her lately in the dining room at nine at night waiting for breakfast. She cannot tell time anymore - even digital and seeing the dark is not a cue for her either. I have added on almost as much additional help as they will give at her place (in addition to going over there myself almost every day) and am just grateful for every day that she can stay where she is and I'm not told that she has to leave. I know that I am lucky that I am not responsible for her care 24/7 but I think I have a feeling for the tiredness you feel. If it isn't just physically draining to try to meet their needs, I'm finding that it's way more emotionally draining. My eyes filled with tears yesterday as she cried throughout a Dr's visit. She knows that her time, along with everything else, is "off". The time issue, along with the sleep deprivation, are the biggest issues and making her just worn out. Fortunately, the Dr is changing meds and we're hopeful that will help. I want to thank you for asking this question for many of us! You're in my prayers and thoughts!
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Our experts addressed this very topic, in an article titled "Coping with elderl parent's distorted sense of time." I hope it provides you with some info that will help you deal with this stressful situation:

https://www.agingcare.com/136216
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KelleyBean Jan 2010
Rachel, Have you tried an activity board? Get a big digital clock and place it on the wall next to an activity board. Get in the habit of placing the date at the top, weather conditions and daily schedule. Try keeping the place brightly light and then closer to bedtime, softer lighting.
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LoisW Jan 2010
Having a clock available and visible may or may not help. The person with dementia is not processing information accurately, their memory impairment leaves them with bits and pieces of accessible information from which they sometimes construct the framework for the schedule of the moment (or day). Days and nights get mixed up, mornings and afternoons become confused with each other. That all being said, living in the moment with a dementia patient is the most effective way of dealing with the confusing but it doesn't net you a good night's sleep or peace of mind when you aren't present to protect your dad. I urge you to get some outside help. Adult Day Health centers are great settings for socialization, a good meal, and respite for exhausted family caregivers. Assisted Living communities with special memory care sections are also a great choice (check out their credentials and ask about their philosophy of care). If your dad has passed the point of care in either of those two settings, you could opt for some private duty respite at home (expensive and you have to be careful who you hire) or a skilled nursing home with training in care of individuals with memory impairments (as with assisted living communities, check them out carefully first). I wish you luck.
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RachelDevin Jan 2010
Thank you all for your advice. Each day gets harder and harder, but the more I come here the more I find out about how to deal with living every day. It's so hard. Thank you all.
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NancyH Jan 2010
I know there are talking clocks for people with low vision. It says the date, time etc every time you touch it. My mother-in-law also has dementia, and can't keep track of the time either. These days I don't warn her when I'm coming to take her to a movie or just out for the day any more. When I do warn her, she will be sitting out in the lobby waiting for me hours before I'm going to be there because she can't remember what time I told her. She will call me and ask 'where are you? I've been waiting for hours for you.' It's not her fault, time means nothing to her anymore. Just like with me, if I don't punch a time clock for work, I lose track of the date, and have to look it up.
I've noticed since becoming a caregiver, the older a person is, coupled with dementia, the smaller their world becomes. It becomes a day by day existence for them. No more planning for future events like when they were younger. The future may or may not get there, and if it does they can't remember it anyway. Getting old isn't for sissies...
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N1K2R3 Jan 2010
When I visited It's About Time in the mall, I saw many very large clocks on the wall. I thought to myself at the moment, " What a great gift for an elderly person or even a new mom: a clock on the wall". They were all beautiful, and I think you should look into such a purchase for your father. At age 94, I hope that he can still tell time.
Norene
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