As people grow older, their sense of time may diminish slightly. Along with this, comes the inability to figure out time and distinguish the time of day. While this does not occur to every elderly adult, it does happen quite frequently in adults who are experiencing the early stages of dementia or who have already been diagnosed with the degenerative disease. Patients with dementia often forget time schedules and seem to be lost in their own minds when it comes to being places in a timely manner. From showing up too early or too late to an event, to thinking that it is time for bed in the middle of the day, sometimes elderly loved ones simply do not heed time. If one, or both, of your elderly parents have a distorted sense of time, then it may be challenging for you and your family. Often, you may find yourselves wondering if your parent is going to show up someplace or if their distorted view on time is hampering their ability to make it. If they simply cannot seem to get the times of the day correct and fall asleep during the day, while staying up all night, then you may become frustrated and annoyed. Coping with their distorted sense of time can be challenging, but learning the reasoning behind their time distortion may help.
As people age, their capacity to judge time accurately diminishes. Coupled with the fact that many older adults have trouble sleeping, and suddenly you have a set of elderly parents whose internal clocks are way out of tune. In these cases, parents may feel the need to sleep whenever they can. Overtime, their sleep patterns become so skewed that they may begin to fall asleep during the day and stay awake all night. After keeping up with this schedule for many weeks to many months, it can be hard to break this pattern, and if your parents do not work or do much outside of their home, they may not wish to break this pattern. For this scenario, if your parents’ skewed time bothers you and other family members, then it may be good to sit down with them and talk to them. Air your own grievances and let them know how their skewed time schedule is affecting the rest of the family. If your parents are constantly missing important events because they are off schedule, then bring that up. Your parents may need to visit their doctors to get a small sample of sleeping medication in order to return to their normal sleeping patterns. With a little bit of work, your parents can probably return to their normal time frames.
If your parents do more than just sleep throughout the day, then they may fall into another group of time-distorted seniors. Many people perceive that time begins to pass quicker in their old age than it did during their younger years. Of course, this is not actually the case, but for many elderly loved ones, it may feel true. This tendency is maximized and over-exaggerated by the early phases of certain forms of dementia. In these cases, many elderly begin to feel like each minute of each day takes hours, and their time schedule goes completely off balance. However, your parent does not have to be diagnosed with dementia in order to feel like this. Many older individuals feel as if time is passing by quickly because they do not want to miss anything in life. They understand that they are living their twilight years, and want to have as many life experiences as they can before they die. For this reason, many elderly loved ones are early birds and get to bed pretty early in the evening as well. This type of behavior may feel awkward to some family members, and may cause your parents to miss a few events throughout the years, but it is not caused by a medical condition. Your parents just simply want to be awake whenever the sun comes up.
Other age-related factors may also contribute to a senior’s sense of time. Deteriorating night vision and poor night driving skills may cause your loved ones to get up early and go to bed early as to avoid being out at night or during high traffic times. The need for frequent bathroom breaks may also contribute to their odd sense of time. If your parents constantly are running for the bathroom, then they may insist on taking pit stops often during driving times. This can lead to them being late for many family events, and can cause some people to think they have a distorted sense of time.
If you are a caregiver to your parents, then your loved one’s odd sense of time may be frustrating. To help, you can do three things:
Determine the Root Cause of Your Loved Ones’ Time Schedule
Sit down with your parents and try to decipher why they have such an odd sense of time. If their odd sense of time is due to something simple like their constant need to go to the restroom, then you can easily fix that by adding pit stops to driving times. Determine the root cause so that you can alleviate the issue.
Set a Schedule for Your Loved Ones
If your loved ones simply cannot follow a time schedule on their own, then set one for them and enforce it. If you are their primary caregiver and their odd sense of time is frustrating you, then make a time schedule for them during times in which they need to be somewhere at exact times and then enforce the schedule. This is best used for days when they have doctor’s appointments or family get together.
Remember That Time Spent with Your Loved Ones is Valuable
Above all, remember that each day you spend with your parents is a gift. Try not to let your frustrations about their distorted sense of time get to you. Instead, think of their time frame as a funny quirk that you just have to cope with.