One of the most impactful changes to daily life in those with Alzheimer’s and other dementia related disorders is the loss of time. As the disease progresses and there is increased damage to the cerebellum, a condition known as dyschronometria occurs in which an individual cannot accurately estimate the amount of time that has passed. The parts of the brain used for telling time begin to deteriorate and eventually will stop working all together.
Signs of Dementia-Related Dyschronometria
Dyschronometria leads to short-term memory loss, diminished spatial awareness, and increased inability to track time. You may experience your loved one becoming extremely panicked or worried after you step out of the room for only a short period of time. This is because your loved one with dementia has a very different perception of how long you have been gone. During the early stages of Alzheimer’s, many aging adults can also appear to wander aimlessly without an awareness of how much time has passed.
Those with dementia perceive that the passage of time is quicker than older adults without dementia and younger adults. For example, a person with dementia is likely to underestimate how long they waited at a bus stop (if asked upon the arrival of the bus; retrospective time perception) and how long they will be on the bus for the respective journey (if asked when the bus is boarded; prospective time perception).
Problems Caused by Dementia-Related Time Loss
In later stages of dementia, having your loved one completely lose the ability to determine day of the week or time of day results in many behavioral challenges. Severe dementia-related dyschronometria can lead to frustration, anxiety, anger, and even agression. This level of confusion can also cause clingy or repetitive behavior.
Loneliness Associated with Time Loss
When the environments and the people those with dementia encounter do not match expectations, this can create an extreme sense of loneliness. Many people with Alzheimer’s disease other related dementias feel as they are being duped or that the whole world is conspiring against them.
Sequencing of Tasks with Time Distortion
The concept of time as it relates to the sequencing of tasks is the root of many misunderstandings as care is provided to a person with dementia. Under normal circumstances, when we go about a task, we know that timing is everything. In order to be successful, there has to be a logical sequence of what comes first, next, last. What if your brain could not process all of those steps? What if your loved one only did one of those steps or one part of a step?
Asking someone with dementia why he/she did something in a certain sequence will only make the situation more challenging. For example, saying “why didn’t you turn the water on when you brushed your teeth?” may result in an argument. The best approach is simply to turn on the water and assist your loved one with the next step. Using the word “why?” often results in additional misunderstanding and frustration.
People with dementia lose the ability to think of abstract things like when a beloved family member visited last, the food that is not right in front of them that was eaten earlier in the day, or when they last had a bath. For some easy answers to abstract concepts, see the examples below:
Statement: “You never visit me.” Response: “I’m here now.” or “I will do better.”
Statement: “I have not eaten for months.” Response: “I will make sure you get dinner. In the meantime, here is a snack.”
Statement: “I just had a bath.” Response: “Great. It is time for another one.”
Solutions for Time Loss with Dementia
How to deal with dementia-related dyschronometria depends on what stage of dementia your loved one is experiencing and his/her cognitive abilities. In earlier stages of dementia, a clock that provides a reference to time, day, month, and year may be helpful. Individuals with late stage dementia may not be able to read the face of a clock or understand the positioning of the hands on a clock. The “Clock Test” is used by doctors to determine early signs of dementia. (Doctors will draw a circle and ask the patient to add the numbers as the face of the clock and draw the hands of a particular time.)
Dementia Clock Solutions
Description on Amazon: This unique and modern clock does far more than tell the time. The Live Better With Reminder Day Clock can help the person you care about stay independent, stick to a daily routine and keep important appointments. Featuring a talking clock functionality, this clock comes with 20 pre-set reminder messages which can be set to sound daily, weekly or as a one off. You can also record your own personalized reminder messages, tailor made for the person you love.
Prevent confusion about whether it’s night or day with clearly marked images on a digital face clock. It prevents confusion and discourages wandering during the night. Suitable for those in early stages of dementia.
Description on Amazon: With Talking Madi your loved ones will always have reliable reminders to take their Medication or weekly activities. This alarm clock can record up to 8 personalized messages so your loved ones can either hear your voice or Madi’s soft and gentle tune. The alarms sound for 30 minutes making sure no reminders are missed. This clock even includes a mute switch, flashing display during alarms & adjustable volume. Your loved one will always see and hear Talking Madi whenever they need to remember.