It’s now considered one of the most essential products for anyone living with dementia. So what did family carers do before day clocks were invented?
They say the simplest ideas are often the best so perhaps that’s why the day clock is now in big demand by people living with dementia and memory problems.
Dementia can make it increasingly difficult to tell the time, leading to confusion, anxiety and stress. That’s where a day clock, can come in so useful. Day clocks, which clearly displays the day of the week and what part of the day it is, allow people with dementia to stay in control of their lives for longer, reducing the need for family and carer intervention. In fact, they’re now so popular that it’s hard to believe just a few short years ago, these helpful products, didn’t exist.
‘I really wish day clocks had been around when I was caring for my mum,’ says Kate, whose mum lived with mixed dementia for nearly ten years. ‘Mum had a treasured carriage clock she kept by the bed but the face was small, and it became clear early on that she could no longer read the time on it,’ Kate recalls. ‘We tried swapping it for a modern digital clock but she couldn’t see the numbers at night and became very agitated if she woke up and didn’t know what time it was.’
As dementia progresses, the traditional clock face no longer makes much sense and time orientation becomes increasingly difficult. ‘Eventually, Mum got day and night mixed up and use to call me at 2am in a panic because she thought she’d missed an appointment with the GP or hospital,’ says Kate. ‘We had two very young children who were light sleepers so the whole house was often woken when Mum called, and I’d end up being really grumpy with her, which I still feel guilty about.’
Unforgettable founder James Ashwell believes a day clock might have helped his mum Fay to keep her social life going for longer. ‘Mum was a very sociable person, she ran the local Scouts club and raised funds for a nearby hospice. But then she started to miss appointments because she was confusing days, dates and times,’ recalls James. ‘We bought a big expensive office clock – the simplest we could find – but it still wasn’t easy for her to understand and could confuse her. I really wished I could have found a better solution.’
Some family carers used their skills and ingenuity to find creative solutions. ‘I made a day clock using a digital photo frame,’ says Martyn. ‘I’m a graphic designer so it was quite easy for me to set up the image and Mum found it very helpful.’
‘I needed to find a simple way to communicate information to Mum which would ease her agitation during the day and stop her phoning me all the time at work,’ recalls Kevin a former IT manager. ‘I put a clock display on an old computer Mum had at home. I placed the monitor right next to the TV so she could see it. It worked! The phone calls stopped and she was a lot less anxious.’
But for the less tech savvy family carer, it was more a case of trial and error. ‘Eventually,’’ we opted for a simple tear- off paper calendar so Mum at least knew the correct day,’ says Kate. ‘However, it did rely on someone tearing off a single page each day and keeping it up to date for her. If they forgot (or Mum decided to tear off a few pages herself) we were in trouble…’
Fortunately, there are now several day clocks and time orientation products on the market, catering for a wide variety of needs, from mild memory problems to later stage dementia.
The 8″ 2-in-1 Calendar & Day Clock which offers two types of display (one shows the time, day of the week, date and year, whilst the other shows a more simplified version suitable for those with greater needs).