It's Sunday, my morning to spend with 2 cups of coffee and the Sunday NYTimes. After lunch I'll visit my husband at the memory care center before joining my family to watch the NYGiants play football on television. Last week my husband joined us and was able to visit for an hour and a half before he became anxious and wanted to return to the comfort of his home. What willl today bring? I do not know yet.
What I do know is that I took his wrist watch home with me this week, at his request. He no longer has any concept of time and he no longer understood why he was wearing this leather strap on his wrist.
It has been a long time since he has understood the concept of time; his life's rhythm depends on his immediate physical needs. He falls asleep no matter where he is if he feels tired, he asks for food when he feels hungry, he asks to be shown where the toilet is when he needs to relieve himself.
Several of the members of my Alzheimer's support group are grappling with the early stages of the loss of the concept of time. "She asks every day repeatedly if tomorrow is Sunday" one woman complained. Her mother-in-law wants to get her skirt ready for church. Answering that today is Tuesday doesn't help; the cycle of the days of the week is no longer active. When I suggested they get her skirt ready anyway and replace it in her closet while the woman slept, she was appalled that I suggested "lying" to her mother-in-law.
Alzheimer's disease can accentuate anxiety as folks are aware of their losses in one area, but still recognize the importance of ingrained repetitive events. Another woman I know constantly wants to fix dinner for her husband who passed away years ago. She has lost the concept of time, but not the daily routine of the expectation that she prepare the evening meal for her spouse.
So many of us are controlled by time; we feel uncomfortable when our routines are changed. Even Sunday has its own routine for me, but here I am, writing a blog entry instead of reading my Sunday paper. The difference? I can choose my priorities. So can you. We can plan our time, we can manage our anxiety by dividing our time among what we do for others and what we do for ourselves. Take time for yourselves today.