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Dementia Makes Time Its Bitch

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Metal pendulum balls balancing from strings in Newton's cradle

Time and dementia don’t mix. Time means nothing to a person with dementia. It doesn’t pass the way it does for those of us who can feel the expanse and rhythm of a minute in our bones.

That’s why Mom and I are often late or nearly late, or very, very early, for anything like an appointment or dinner with friends. She insists it takes her only 20 minutes to get showered and dressed in the morning, when in fact it takes at least an hour and a half. And after that hour and a half, though, for her, only 20 minutes has passed.

Today we had to take my cat, Spike, to the vet at 11 AM. The office is only around the corner, so we wouldn’t actually have to leave the house until about 10:50. But I started telling Mom at 8:45 that she needed to get moving.

“I know, I know. I just want to finish my coffee!” she snapped. She hates when I try to push her along. It’s a little daily friction, and I have to keep my frustration under control because time doesn’t move for her the same way anymore.

What Is Time?

Albert Einstein postulated that, “…the dividing line between past, present, and future is an illusion.” Hence, time itself is an illusion. Because time and space are fused together, the past is not gone, and the future exists already. Every moment, from the Big Bang to the end of time, exists. But for some reason not fully understood by physicists, humans only observe moments moving forward. There is nothing in the laws of physics, though, that says time has to move forward. It should be able to move backward, too.

As order moves to disorder, time appears to move forward. As disorder moves to order, time appears to move backwards. The universe is expanding at an increasing rate, creating more and more disorder. But eventually, the universe will have moved to the point that there is no disorder. Once there is no longer any disorder, time will cease to exist. Disorder means change. And without change, there is no clear notion of the passage of time. At least, that’s what people way smarter than I say.

clocks

Mom’s Disorder Is Order

You might think that for Mom everything is disordered. And in a way, from our perspective, it is. But remember, without observable change, there is no clear notion of the passage of time. For Mom, the universe has reached its limit, and time no longer exists.

She said to me today, “I don’t remember the last time we went out to eat!”

We went out to eat last night with her friends. Since she can’t observe the change of us eating in a restaurant, as opposed to our dining room table, time has stopped.

Keeping Time in a Timeless Mind

So, this morning when I knew we had to get Spike to the vet at 11, I managed to get her into the shower at 9:45. I knew it would be tight, but I also knew if I kept at her, we might not be that late. At 10:30, I checked in on her, telling her once again about Spike’s appointment.

“I’m almost ready. I just have to put on my make-up!”

Twenty minutes later, “Ok, Mom, we are officially going to be late.”

“Late for what?”

“Spike’s vet appointment.”

“You didn’t tell me. I’m almost done, and if we are late, we are late. I bet they are running late, too.”

“I don’t like being late.”

Grumble. Grumble. Grumble.

Five minutes later, lipstick and earrings, because god forbid she leave the house without them.

“Can you put the earrings on in the car?”

“Yes! But you tell me 5 minutes before that we have an appointment!!!”

She’s pissed at me. What else is new? Yes, Mom. I specifically waited until 5 minutes before we had to leave just to annoy you because I’m a horrible daughter who lives to torture you.

That was only in my head, though. Time, for me, is like being caught in swift water. All I can do is get on my back, feet first, and let it flow me down the stream until the rapids slow.

So, dementia has made both time, and me, its bitch.

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