Dementia and clock changes: Hi everyone, I... - Care Community

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Dementia and clock changes


Hi everyone,

I see that winter's officially arriving this weekend with the changing of the clocks back to GMT in the early hours this Sunday.

I'm probably considered quite strange, as I actually like this. All of the seasons have played a big part in my love of my native UK and I really missed them when living overseas in countries with no seasons. Each season here seems just long enough, so that by the end of each one, I'm always ready to welcome the next new chapter, and that's how I'm now feeling about the coming winter.

But I'm wondering if any carers find that the winter season and early darkness can be challenging for the dementia sufferers they care for.

My late sister used to suffer behavioural difficulties at every clock change, maybe because it was confusing to be suddenly doing something in the dark which previously had been done in daylight, and vice versa. It was more marked at this time of year when the days are getting shorter.

And, as she'd always been inclined to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, she would become increasingly depressed. We did find it helped to get her one of the special lights that helps to combat it.

Until she went into a care home, we tried to adjust her routine a bit, changing things like the timing of her evening meal, so that, to her, her routine was less disturbed. On nice days we'd try to encourage her out into the garden at least for a few minutes, to give her what natural daylight there was, and that served another purpose in stopping her from taking an afternoon nap and then becoming disorientated and agitated when she unexpectedly woke up after dark.

Generally though she was grumpier and inclined to behavioural challenges, particularly with the long hours of nighttime darkness. Has anyone else noticed the same thing?

10 Replies

Excellent point well made Callendersgal. I like the seasons too so we’re both a bit strange.....or not. Xxx

CallendersgalModerator in reply to sassy59

Haha, let's say 'not'!

thanks - can't really help but useful to think about as my mother is becoming a nightmare at the moment. I do not and could not live with her nor could my brother so she's at home and we arrange for carers to come in and a cleaner but she has started shouting at them in the last few weeks - food always the issue - she doesn't realise when it is rotten but if she sees someone throwing it away she gets up tight. She destroyed the microwave this week trying to make a stew using a metal pan ... and I didn't throw it away but put it in a glass container but it wasn't cooked enough so carers are concerned about it but reacted badly when they suggested it should be thrown out. So food is the trigger but it hadn't really occurred to me that the light may have something to do with it ... or it may just be the dementia progessing.

CallendersgalModerator in reply to Gambit62

Hi Gambit62

Thanks for responding to my post, but so sorry to hear that you've got some difficult challenges with your mum at the moment. It sounds as if, regardless of whether this has sparked because of the season, or is generally a new phase in your mum's condition, it is throwing up some issues that are difficult to cope with.

Your mum may be of the generation (like me), who grew up in the days of food shortages /rationing, and it was thoroughly dinned into us not to waste food, that it remains deep within us. I don't keep food until it's mouldy, of course, but whatever food is left over after a meal, I am immediately wondering how it can be used up at another meal, and sometimes I just have to fight the feeling and make myself throw it away when it's not practical to save. But I can't reiterate enough how guilty this still makes me feel.

So, this might be learned behaviour from long ago that's resurfacing now and I doubt you'd be able to adjust her reasoning on the subject of leftovers, because of this.

You might have to start to rethink her catering arrangements. Would deliveries of ready prepared meals from a company like Wiltshire Farm foods be of any help maybe? That way meals are in handy portions that only need warming through, and there are no leftovers to deal with.

I know it's not a perfect solution, and there may not be one. But I hope for the sake of everyone's peace of mind, you'll be able to find some kind of reasonable compromise that will work for you all.

Very best wishes.

Thanks callendersgal. She already has ready meals but every so often she decides that she wants to cook a stew - but the last two times it has been the most dubious stew imaginable - generally it is the carers that cook for her.

I've told the carers not to talk to mum about throwing food away - there is quite a bit that is around waste of food - I'd rather not waste food either and I grew up in the 60s/70s ... my brother said last weekend that what really gets to him about my mother is the penny pinching - and I can certainly relate to that in terms of food - she would always buy the cheapest (and often the nastiest) with the result that it didn't get eaten and just went mouldy and to waste because we couldn't face eating it - where as smaller amounts of better quality (which would have cost the same) didn't get used.

Logic circuits are completely bust and have been for years - suspect her working memory is the problem as she only seems to retain the last instruction given to her so you have to be careful what you say to her and really think it through ... I feel a bit guilty because I have long since gone past feeling that it is worth explaining things to her because it just feels like a colossal waste of time and energy. I sneak round to the flat and remove what I can of the stuff she has brought that is really unsuitable whilst she is in bed or distracted but there is a long history of having to clear up after her as a child because she was incredibly messy ... though it is definitely worse now ... and the shouting also triggers memories of what left us with a very distant relationship.

I think my first post on this forum was a rant about how difficult caring for someone you really don't like is.

She has a friend who takes her shopping every couple of weeks so my brother is going to try and contact him and explain the problems that her shopping is causing and see if he can stop her buying stuff that is unsuitable - not sure if that will work as she never listens to either of me or my brother when I've been shopping with her.

Its frustrating because it is actually buying the food in the first place that is the wasteful thing ...

Such is life.

CallendersgalModerator in reply to Gambit62

Hi Gambit62

Thanks for that insight into your mum's life and the struggles you have had with her. Try not to feel too guilty about your feelings. Not every parental relationship is easy or good, and you have your own needs and a right to your own happiness too. The important thing is that you are doing what's necessary for her, and in a way that's the greater thing, because it's really a lot easier to care for someone with whom you have a great love and connection.

So always take care of your own needs too, and remember that one of the reasons we are here at all is so that you can let off steam and have a good rant, whenever you need one.

Best wishes.

hello all the carers,

for me personally ,as well as being a carer I find the dark days of winter very depressing ,in fact I loath it,and altering the clocks is the last straw,why on earth not leave it as it is,as when it starts to get dark at 4pm I could scream.

To be honest I have never liked the dark,it makes me nervous,and I become like a hermit.


Oh my commiserations secrets22. I know it's more common to feel this way, and I'm a bit of a rarity. Unfortunately not putting the clocks back after the summer makes the inhabitants of Scotland scream too, as it means that in some locations they don't get a ray of light until nearly 1000am. So I guess there's not one solution that fits all.

I'm glad you can be honest and admit that the darkness makes you nervous, but it's a shame if that makes you become a hermit. I wish I knew what the answer is, but I can't really think of anything but relocating, and even then, as I found to be the case in the tropics, nearer the equator, it gets light early all year, but it's dark by about 6pm every night of the year. I did once read that in Northern Russia, in cities like Archangel, where the winter brings virtual 24 hour darkness, children have to be placed in rooms artificially lit with ultra violet light so that they don't suffer from vitamin D deficiency.

Anyway, I hope that you manage to pass the coming winter without getting too isolated or too down.

Very best wishes.


Hello Callendersgal, my mum never used to like closing the curtains at disk , she used to say 'dont shut Gods daylight out'. But this year she started with middle stage Alzheimers disease and saw Consultant about ten days ago who diagnosed her with vascular dementia in the early stages. Mum always wants the curtains closed just before dusk and dad puts the lights on for her. Mum gets really agitated and anxious around this time of da and always has looked forward to the spring when the lighter evenings come because both me and Mum think its depressing when it goes dark in the afternoons because I find the more sunlight we see , that is a good motivator for me having chronic OCD and it cheers people up too.


Hi paula191,

First of all, I'm so sorry to hear of your mum's diagnosis, but I guess it's as well to know for sure what it is that has caused changes in her, as that makes it a tiny bit easier to cope with.

There is something known as 'sundowning syndrome' that can occur in dementia when there is increasing agitation, confusion and restlessness as it becomes dark, and I imagine that, as your mum always did prefer light and sunshine, she might be more liable to suffer from this.

I think sunlight definitely cheers most people up. It was really marked how much more positive more people were in that long summer spell we had. Although heat got a lot of people down, I think they still appreciated days and days of sunshine. I think that living in the tropics for so long tended to put me off endless sunny days, but the majority of people in UK who so often have to put up with gloominess in the weather for months on end, really appreciate some brightness!

Anyway, I hope that it remains possible for your dad to help your mum by closing off the curtains and putting on the lights.

Good to hear your update, and best wishes to all of you.

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