Telling Time

Telling Time

November 02, 2020 by jas

It was the fall weekend when daylight time changed back to standard time in this already strange year, 2020.

And that’s exactly what made me think of sharing the recent behaviours related to changing a clock and telling time in My Love’s life in Alzheimer’s world.

Today, as My Love seems to be crossing ‘the line’ into stage seven Alzheimer’s, he sits and looks at his watches, one on his right wrist and one on his left, both working. Incredibly, he still associates one to his boating days – even though the rest of his boating history has all but vanished – and the other watch has clearly marked numbers, and, fortunately, winds by wrist movement. He observes the hands on each one move, but he struggles to tell time, regardless which watch he checks.

My Love often fiddles with his watches. ..he had more than two. He usually compares them to the other clocks he could see in our home. He no longer knows how to wind them, change them and, now lately, he no longer can tell me the time.

“The time is wrong,” My Love broke the silence. It was a simple comment.

At first I had no idea what he was on about. What was he telling me? And then I glanced at the time on the corner of the computer screen and then my watch and realized I had forgotten all about the hour change the night before. I had not changed our clocks from daylight to standard time. But how did he know that? I never mentioned it. How on earth did he associate his watches with the time switch? Or was it another coincidence?

“What makes you think the time is wrong?” I asked, not really expecting him to have an answer. “Are you telling me that I did not change the clocks?”

And, of course, My Love did not have an answer. He could not find words to tell me what he meant. He just shook he head, which I took to mean he didn’t know.

Not one of our clocks is changed by any computer program except my laptop, iphone and ipad and he never uses them. The wall clocks, stove clock, alarm clock, dementia clock and our watches all need human intervention to correct the time.

Born in late 1930s and early 1940s, we grew up learning the analog clock, how to tell time by the hands moving around the numbers on the clock face. We learned the short hand tells us the hour and the long hand tells us the minutes before or after the hour. We learned the hand that moves around, ticking in seconds, gave more exact timing. It seemed so simple.

My Love never chose a digital watch. It made no sense to want to know the time that had passed…6:40 did not tell him he still had twenty minutes before seven! He’d see 6:40, but still have to convert it to ‘twenty minutes before seven’ in his mind. And now, that extra step complicated the process for one with memory loss.

We have a digital clock, created especially for those with dementia, and recently, he asks me what the numbers mean.

Over the years I have noticed My Love likes to look at the hands and know where he is in time with relation to what is coming next. For him, a person who always seemed to focus on ‘now’ and what was ahead, the past remains irrelevant in terms of telling time.

His mind works hard to tell me specifically where the short hand is and where the long hand is. The words aren’t there. It is not the clock, but his disappearing connection between words and concepts, that make his struggle to tell time agonizing for me to witness. He gets frustrated with his helplessness. When he wants to say the numbers, he fumbles with the missing words he is trying to say, making his frustration an added distraction from his telling the time. Many times, he just forgets what he was trying to tell me.

My Love even finds it difficult to convey the time using the over-sized analog clock on the wall….which I crudely converted from Roman numerals to Arabic numerals. He compares it often to those on his wrists. He finds it easier to distinguish the long and short hand on the large clock, but none help with his mental ability to tell me the time. It is not the hands on the clock, but the missing words in the mind that hinder his time telling.

But somehow, he knows that when the large hand is on the twelve and the small hand is on the nine, it is time for bed. My Love comes to me, with his finger pointing to the nine. He does not say, “it’s nine o’clock,” but instead, tapping on the crystal, tells me “time for bed.” The connection to his watch, the nine and bed somehow still relate; he just can no longer verbalize.

So how on earth did My Love have that brief moment of clarity to relate the time on his wristwatch to the time that was supposed to have been changed back to standard overnight? How did he know the time was wrong? Because, indeed, it was wrong. I will never comprehend that. But the clocks are now changed, and, it appears, his new normal, for a few moments in time, will be to point to numbers rather than speak them. All is well.

~jas

Telling Time copyright (c) 2020 Judith Allen Shone

Wristwatch photo image by MonacoCannes from Pixabay
Digital watch image by Pexels from Pixabay
Hourglass image by anncapictures from Pixabay


Read the stories that tell the ‘rest of our story!’

Accepting the Gift of Caregiving,
“Is There Any Ice Cream?” and “Did You Hide the Cookies?”

Visit website: Caregiver Challenges
Available from booksellers locally and online.
See Amazon.ca (Canada) or Amazon.com (US)
Judith Allen Shone, author.

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