“WHAT is Timeline Confusion™ in dementia care?” TRANSCRIPT


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All right. What do we do when a person living with dementia seems to not recognize this anymore. What’s that about? I have a lot of content on this topic that I called timeline confusion. It’s on my podcast. I have another video about it from a while back on YouTube. I have a lot of info on my blog about this, but let’s talk about it just a little bit here. So this concept I call Timeline Confusion™ is the idea that when a person is living with dementia, time is not really linear for them. And you know this if you’ve ever talked to somebody who has dementia and they’re talking about something that happened years ago as if it happened yesterday and then sometimes other realities exist simultaneously, even though they’re in different timelines. This is also why perhaps a person living with dementia may have trouble placing you on their timeline.

It is not that they don’t recognize you. It’s not that they don’t know you. It’s not that they don’t love you. It’s not that they don’t care it’s that they can’t figure out who you are on their timeline. Let me give you an example. Let’s say our dad, you know, let’s say he’s 90. Okay. You walk in and you’re 60. However, in his reality, and I talk all about Embracing Their Reality™ on other videos and podcasts. And on my blog, you walk in, he’s like, wait a second. He goes on his timeline. He thinks he’s 60. So when you walk in his adult child, he’s like, hang on a second. Who’s this? Because my kid is 30. Who’s this 60-year-old person?

Well, then they’re going to create a reality. That makes sense. Or let me rephrase that their brain is going to create a reality for them. That makes sense to them. So he may think that you, if you’re his son, he may think that you are his dad. That you’re his brother, his cousin, his neighbor, his friend. It’s not that he doesn’t know you or love you. He just can’t figure out why you’re so old. He’s picturing you as a young man. He’s like, who’s this guy. He may even be picturing you as a teenager, a child, you look familiar, you sound familiar. He knows he cares, but who are you on that timeline? That’s what it’s all about. Now, what we don’t want to do is walk into the room and go, Hey, dad, it’s me remember? Or worse…Hey, do you know who I am? Come on, tell me my name, please. Don’t do that. Listen and wait for context clues to tell you who you are. And then go with that reality.

I go into way more detail on my podcast. So you can tune into season four of the dementia by day podcast. Now, anywhere you get your podcast. The phrase, Timeline Confusion™ is actually trademarked. trademarking is a ton of fun. Anyway, thanks for tuning in! I hope you got something useful today and be sure to subscribe and rate, and comment below if you’ve experienced this and I’ll do my best to get back to you. Thanks.

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3 thoughts on ““WHAT is Timeline Confusion™ in dementia care?” TRANSCRIPT”

  1. Sharon Davidson

    My mom is feeling abandoned by her children. She tells me, her oldest daughter, that she would just like to see her children again, but she understands that they are so busy with their jobs. She then can go on and tell me what I do for work correctly. But to see me, she thinks I either work or live in her memory care facility. Exactly as you say, I am 63 and she thinks she is only in her 50’s.
    Thanks to you, I can roll with that, but the feeling abandoned hurts my heart for her. Any suggestions for that? All of her children visit weekly if not daily.

    1. Thank you for writing in, Sharon! This is a great question. I wonder if we could try something like this: you, as her “friend” (or whoever she believes you are at that time) could say something like, “I know your children love you so much. What if we picked out some dates and times on your calendar when you can schedule time to talk with them?” You don’t need to follow up and “see if the call happened” (because you’ll know it did) but I think she will feel good making a plan.

  2. Is it timeline confusion, demential-related, that when I wake up each morning I am confused why one of my husbands is not there with me. I was married 4 times. The latest one passed away 2 1/2 years ago.
    I was married 10 years to each of the first 2, 13 years to the 3rd.
    This is frightening to me because I don’t know what is happening when I wake up alone. I have to stop ad realize none of them were there the night before, but why isn’t someone there this morning????
    Sally Parker, 70 1/2 years old.

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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