Dementia’s Perspective of Time

Dementia’s Perspective of Time post page

By Carolyn LukertNovember 18th, 2021

Dementia’s Perspective of Time

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by Carolyn Lukert, MBA, CGCM,

PAC Consultant and Mentor

I write this article today not from the perspective of a PAC Consultant, but from the perspective of a family care partner. My mom, Pat, lives with probable Lewy Body Dementia. One of the changes I noticed relatively early on in her dementia experience was her awareness of the passage of time. As an example, I would leave her alone and take my dog for a short walk. When I returned home, she often was irritated at how long I was away. There were even a few occasions when she said she was about to call the police, thinking something had happened to me. I had only been gone 15 minutes at the most, but for mom, that seemed like hours.

As time went on, this passage of time aspect took some different looks. We would go to visit one of my siblings, and she would be ready to leave within minutes of arriving, thinking we had been there for much longer. If we let her know of an appointment more than 24 hours in advance, she would insist that it was happening sooner than it was scheduled, and would get extremely distressed when we didn’t go when she thought we should. We thought that putting the appointments on the calendar would solve this, however I then would find her staring at the calendar trying to make sense of it all, most of the time unsuccessfully.

We tried some strategies to make things less distressing for my mom, knowing that this part of her brain was no longer working. All strategies centered around keeping her engaged in something to pass the time so that she wasn’t focused on that thing she thought was supposed to be happening. It reminded me of when we were kids on a road trip, asking our parents Are we there yet? over and over again. What did they do? They had us play a game that involved looking for license plates of different states, or they turned the radio on so we could sing along. A classic distraction move if I ever saw one. So, applying that same logic, I waited to walk the dog until the local news came on, knowing that my mom loved to watch it and that it would keep her entertained and anchored for 30 minutes. When visiting others, having a specific activity in mind to get involved with as soon as we arrived did the trick. A meal or snack, for example. And, as far as appointments go, I learned to wait to tell her until the night before, or even the day of, and that worked quite well.

So, fast forward to the present. My mom now lives in a supportive community, and one of my bigger concerns when she moved in was that she would be thinking we were never coming to visit and that she had been abandoned. The good news is – she is quite busy with her new friends and activities, so she doesn’t seem to focus on time between our frequent visits. When we do visit, a visit might last five minutes or 50 minutes, depending on what is happening in the world around her, and we just go with her flow. There was one situation, however, when her new best friend had gone to get her hair done, and my mom was convinced she was gone forever. The 30 minutes that her friend was at the salon was hours and hours from my mom’s perspective, and her distress was quite high. The care staff quickly learned that booking their appointments together going forward made it much better for everyone.

If you are looking for support, the Care Partner Support Series is an Online Support Group that meets once a week for five weeks.

Our next session is December 2, 2021 - December 30, 2021, meeting every Thursday from 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm ET (-5 GMT)

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All five sessions as well as materials to download and print are only $50.00 USD.

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