Telling The Time / Clock Readiability - Making a Device Need Advice Please

Discussion in 'I care for a person with dementia' started by thehackery, Feb 27, 2017.

  1. thehackery

    thehackery Registered User

    Nov 3, 2016

    My grandmother is 96 and has Alzheimer's but she still lives independently at the moment (although a care home move is rapidly approaching) with the help of carers coming in three times daily.

    Difficulties in telling the time were one of her early symptoms and this has gradually got worse as time has went on and she constantly complains about "modern clocks" even though the clocks she is complaining about are easily 30 plus years old.

    I noticed you can get clocks that are designed for people with Alzheimer's and that the Alzheimer's Society actually sells them. The clocks have a black background with white characters which appear to be oversized. No disrespect meant to the charity but not spending £80 on a clock. So first question is do you have any experience with this type of clock with your loved one and do they help?

    Nanny still goes to a day centre three days a week but apart from Sundays for some reason she gets up early every day and gets herself ready for the day centre even if she is not going and even if she has been told by me, other family members, carer that there is no day centre that day she still waits for the day centre bus collection and the only way she knows it's not a day centre day is when the bus fails to come for her. We have tried low tech solutions such as writing in a whole years worth of day centre days into her calendar but if she doesn't know the date or day this solution doesn't work.

    I am fairly technical and have been able to make a "clock" that is displayed on a large 23" monitor which is on a entirely black background with white characters which simply says the day of the week and either "No Day Centre Today" or "Day Centre Today" and that's it nothing more as I don't want anything that could possibly confuse the issue. I suppose it seems ironic not wanting to spend £80 but using a big monitor and a tiny cigarette box sized computer to do the same job... but all the parts are spares and at least it will give the day centre information too. So second question... does anyone know if normal text or all caps is more readable for people with Alzheimer's?



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  2. la lucia

    la lucia Registered User

    Jul 3, 2011
    That's sooooo clever. I'm really impressed with the simplicity of the wording. I'd say big letters whatever you use in a plain font. Probably best to stick with 'normal' lettering and not just caps. But..... I have to say that eventually my mum never 'saw' whatever was written in front of her .

    I think my mum couldn't make the mental connection between what she read and what was required of her. But I hope your 'clock' works at least for a while. I think it's much better than an actual clock and something like that would've helped my mum in the earlier stages.
  3. nitram

    nitram Registered User

    Apr 6, 2011
    North Manchester
    Nice setup.
    White on black is generally considered to be better than black on white.
    All upper case may look more like an instruction than mixed case.
    The real problem revolves around readability and comprehension of what has been read.
    IMHO a 'suck it and see' is probably the best way forward.
  4. Selinacroft

    Selinacroft Registered User

    Oct 10, 2015
    Very good , I should say capitals are easier and clearer.
    I bought one of the £80 variety from Dad although a bit cheaper buying Amazons version.
    I would say it was useful to Dad for a month or so but he soon went back to being confused about time of day , meals ,eve/morning etc and never looked at the clock. In my experience by the time you've decided it would be useful and have bought one it is not going to be useful for long.
  5. Marnie63

    Marnie63 Registered User

    Dec 26, 2015
    I too thought £80 was a ridiculous price for a clock, but mum was so confused about time/day that I shopped around and found a 'Dayclox' for £50. I'm not really sure if I'm allowed to share on here where I got mine. I guess I could try and see what happens! I bought mine from, which is run by a guy whose mother had dementia (I think the experience and lack of 'gadgets' at the time inspired him to set up his company). That was the cheapest I could find and it does help mum a little. My mum has Vascular Dementia and the most challenging aspect has been her level of confusion. The clock sits right in front of her armchair, next to the TV. I'm not sure how often she looks at it, but sometimes she does seem to refer to it, and when she asks about time or day and I draw her attention to it, she does still seem to understand. For me, that was worth £50 (though I think even that's quite expensive for a clock!). I find it quite useful too actually, just to check what the date is, rather than looking at a calendar!
  6. Kevinl

    Kevinl Registered User

    Aug 24, 2013
    I've asked several people at the home if they can tell me the time and pointed to the clock and only one ever has and got it right. My wife lost the ability to tell the time ages ago, analogue clocks went first then digital ones, she could tell the numbers were 845 but it didn't mean anything to her. Days of the week mean nothing and now day and night are irrelevant too. Sadly you're fighting a battle that you can only lose, something may work for now but as best it will probably be very short term.
  7. Witzend

    Witzend Registered User

    Aug 29, 2007
    SW London
    #7 Witzend, Feb 27, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2017
    What we found with any kind of information, however clearly and simply presented, was either that the person would forget it as soon as they'd turned their eyes away, or that it didn't register in the first place - hard to tell which.

    Having said that, I hope it works for you! But please don't feel you've failed if it doesn't, or doesn't for long. It won't be the clock that's at fault. It's a question of the person being able to digest and retain the information for as long as necessary, and of course to remember to look at it in the first place.
  8. Dearie Me

    Dearie Me Registered User

    Feb 2, 2012
    Hi there.
    If you are quite technically competent, which you seem to be, then something that worked for us for a while was using a wireless digital photo frame. I created "slides" essentially, saying what day it was and what mum would be doing that day. I simply created them as word files then converted them to jpeg format. Each night, just before I went to bed, I would send the next days slide to mums photo frame. It was a wee bit fiddly to set up, but I could add pictures, and adapt them for days with different appointments etc

    Later, when mum wasn't really coping with reading and comprehending it, her morning carers were able to use the information to keep her right, or even the sheltered housing warden. Mum has been in care now for a couple of years and we just use it to display family photos for her.
  9. thehackery

    thehackery Registered User

    Nov 3, 2016
    Thanks for the feedback guys.

    Interesting about the ALL CAPS reading like a instruction.... I remember reading about the design team that originally came up with the UK road signs back in the 1950s and that ALL CAPS was more difficult to read at speed than normal text. Yes I am sad I know!

    Yep under no illusions this might work for a week, month or 6 months but ultimately I think she is only a few months away from a care home anyways... she was meant to go in at Christmas but... well long story and she didn't so just trying to make life as normal / easy as possible for her whilst still at home.

    Last week I found that in the middle of the night she had taken all clocks around the house about 6 in total all analogue but one and put them in her bedroom. Before this clock "hoarding" she would often complain about having to get up at night and look at every clock in the house and how all are a different time they of course aren't. In fairness some of the clocks are of a decorative type that even I struggle to read them with flowery patterns and roman numerals... all but her bedside digital clock and living room clock were dumped. I suggested buying her a talking clock that was very simple just one big button you mashed with your palm but she said that would only wake her up when she pressed it... even though she would already be woke up and would wake her up less of roaming around the house looking at different clocks at night but you all know reason and logic has sadly left our loved ones a long time ago. Also she refuses any offer of practical / realistic help I think she prefers more to complain about a problem than enjoy the solution.

    It was only last week that I had to box of the heating thermostat and heating timer unit as she just couldn't help herself from messing with the settings and more often than not turning the heating off entirely which of course in winter is not something I could allow... so heating set to automatic and 22 degrees C and a big dirty plastic box mounted over the controls and drilled to the wall. Then put a mechanical timer on her electric blanket plug so blanket would come on at 7pm (her ridiculously early bedtime and then wonders why she can't sleep) and off at 7am automatically and again box that off with another massive box over the mech timer and wall sockets and another smaller box to block of the inline controls for the electric blanket which I set to just above medium... all of that has stopped dead all complaints of house being too warm or cold and the constant complaint of not being able to sleep at night because it was too cold. She shouted at screamed at me when I locked of the heating controls but it worked and I hate to say this but once she forgot it was me that did it I just blamed the council and said they did it, I don't enjoy lying to her but if she knew it was me it would be constant make believe complaints of how the blocks needed to be removed where as she has never mentioned them after I said it was the council's fault so a white lie for the greater good.

    I do all of this to help her but sadly the only other family member involved is actively ignoring her or doing nothing to help her at home because they hope things will get that difficult for her she will want to go into a care home because even at this stage legally she has to agree (madness I know but UK law at it's finest). The logical side of me understands why but at the end of the day she is my grandmother who more or less raised me and I cannot just stand back and allow her to be stressed, uncomfortable, cold etc if there is something I can do to help even if a care home really is the best place for her. Sorry mini rant there!


  10. la lucia

    la lucia Registered User

    Jul 3, 2011
    Robert you are a star..... your grandma is lucky to have you. ☺
  11. Hibni

    Hibni Registered User

    Sep 16, 2013
    I searched the internet and found hugeclock.exe which displays day, date, and time. I have the program running on 2 old laptops - one in my mother's bedroom and one in the lounge. The colours and fonts are configurable - just make sure that the 1 is straight. One night she was up and dressed just after 2 am and I'm sure she read the '1' as a '7'!

    I use PowerPoint if I want to leave a message which, unfortunately, means that 'hugeclock' isn't visible. She can still use another clock and her watch so this system works for the moment.
  12. thehackery

    thehackery Registered User

    Nov 3, 2016
    Hibni... there is a couple of solutions for automated application (hugeclock & powerpoint) switching for a Windows laptop in the link below. Some more technical than others but in essence on the laptop that you have left a message it would switch say every 30 seconds between HugeClock and PowerPoint so she doesn't lose the clock but still sees the message. If you need a hand with the technical stuff give me a shout. Or if there is an internet connection at her property that you can use I could code you up a solution like mine but instead of day centre line that could be your message line and the day could be the time etc and you would be able to change it remotely from your home or phone via a simple web based form. Anyways here is the link: / (just remove the first slash and copy and paste I am not trusted enough to post links!)
  13. Kevinl

    Kevinl Registered User

    Aug 24, 2013
    People don't have to agree, it is possible they can be sectioned or a Deprivation of Liberty order can be used. Anybody place somewhere against their will has to be a danger to themselves or others before this happens and it is done within a very strict legal framework and reviewed regularly.
    We don't live in North Korea or the former Soviet Union so people don't get put away somewhere without it being done by due process, thankfully.
    Either you have to wait for her to agree or wait until the social services believe she is a danger before anything can happen, sadly that's how it works if the PWD doesn't agree to a care home you have to wait for a crisis.
  14. joolzt

    joolzt Registered User

    Apr 1, 2016
    You are so kind and thoughtful Robert. Thank you for sharing your ideas too. My mum is fretting about electric cables so I may box them in, out of sight, out of mind.* Mum has a thing about unplugging everything and even unplugged her personal alarm and phone connection one time, so I ended up driving over in a panic to find her sitting happily in her chair. I stuck masking tape over those plugs to remind her not to touch them, but they may need to be boxed in later.

    I got mum a ridiculously expensive clock that has the day and date. For the price I expected it to be high quality and be totally automatic, but it wasn't. I think PWD are being ripped off. The clock doesn't seem to have any expensive components and it's just plastic.

    Dearie Me's idea of the picture frame is a good idea too. That may help my mum too, as long as she lets it stay plugged in.

    I have Philips Hue lighting and control the bulbs over the Internet when I stay with mum. I've been thinking of doing the opposite and controlling some of mum's lights from home, or even automatically. I am considering putting a colour chart on the wall and giving her a few reminders with colour, eg green means a day centre day, blue means it isn't etc.* I'm not sure if it will be worth the expense though.

    I have an Amazon Echo and have been wondering if that can help. Mum can't use her stereo so I've set up a playlist with all my mum's fave music. She loves it when I play it, but she said she feels daft talking to a box to play music :-(** At the moment Echo just pays sounds for alarms, but I'm hoping someone will write an app so you can set voice reminders.

    Thanks all for the handy hints!

    Sent from my SM-T719 using Talking Point mobile app
  15. thehackery

    thehackery Registered User

    Nov 3, 2016
  16. Al-4

    Al-4 Registered User

    Dec 30, 2016
    I bought a tablet for my mum and downloaded an app called Day Clock from Google play store. The app is very configurable like being able to set colour schemes for night /day, type messages to be displayed at defined times. You can pick a new tablet up for approx 30-40 pounds on ebay. The clock app is a free download. I think this would be a perfect solution for yourself. I've set a permanent screen showing time, day or night, messages, one touch radio stations and a one touch icon for her to phone me. The clock can be used by itself but if you wanted to set radio and phone buttons on top I'd be happy to advise you on what you do. I've recently had a company called "just checking" install sensors around my mums house and find these give great help and comfort by giving real time movement around the house including outside doors being opened. You may want to check their site out.

    Sent from my GT-I9505 using Talking Point mobile app
  17. joolzt

    joolzt Registered User

    Apr 1, 2016
    Thanks for all the info. I worked in IT before I retired so I might give it a go - even though I'll be rusty! Might be something to keep my mind going :)

    Or I may just organise some crowdfunding to pay someone to do it, although there may even be someone on one of the sites you mention who would do it for free as it's a charitable cause.

    I'll have a think about what's needed.

    I have an elderly friend who only sends me half a text and I have to phone her every time!
  18. Peirre

    Peirre Registered User

    Aug 26, 2015
    Depending on your LA the specialty clocks and other items are available FOC via the OT
  19. Elle3

    Elle3 Registered User

    Jun 30, 2016
    I bought my dad one of those Dayclox about 2 years ago now, when we first started noticing he was getting his day's mixed up. At the time we thought it was rather expensive but decided it might be worth it, to stop my dad turning up for things on the wrong days and not understanding why it was a problem.

    He immediately thought it was brilliant, it told him the Time, day and Date, and he was very happy with it. However we quickly found our first problem was getting him to keep it switched on when he went to bed, as he thought as it was plugged in, it was using up loads of electricity (he was old school always unplugging everything before going to bed), but then he would forget to switch it back on in the morning. We eventually after about 4 months persuaded him it was costing hardly anything so he finally left it on. Then our second problem began, when he kept forgetting to look at it!

    Just over a year ago, he also began having issues with night and day, especially during the lighter nights and we had a few incidents when he was heading out at 8pm to catch a train, thinking it was 8am with thoughts of going to go to his usual place for lunch! However, by the time he arrived at his destination it had gone dark and he was unable to get back home, so he was picked up and brought home by the Police.

    Trying to resolve this problem we looked into other ways of trying to get him to see the time of day and we found a display similar to the Dayclox but this just displayed whether it was Morning, Afternoon, Evening and Night. We also discovered there is a clock that has both this function and the Day, Time, Date functions, but the user has to manually press a button to see the different displays, which to be honest I don't think is very good for people with memory problems.

    We ended up buying this other display and gave it to my dad to put next to the other clock, but this only lasted a couple of days, as he said it was rubbish and he was happy with the other clock so he didn't need another. Our problem was that it was now too late to introduce another device.

    We have often said wouldn't it be great if they did a similar type of device, which you could remotely program or control, which could display the day, time and date like the Dayclox, the time of day like the other device as well as other messages that you could program in, like for instance appointments, or reminders for medication etc. It would also be brilliant if it could work with some sort of sensor and audio voice that could trigger at certain times of day, or even have led's around it that flash to get their attention when the person needs to read a message or they have to do something.

    We think white lettering on a black background definitely seems to work well and large lettering probably in caps is best.
  20. thehackery

    thehackery Registered User

    Nov 3, 2016
    Well it was a bit of a rush getting my idea implemented into the little micro computer (Raspberry Pi) and for the display to automatically load when booted / turned on although hopefully either Nanny or anyone else will turn it off. Little computer is smaller than a pack of cigarettes so it's just in a small plastic case and typed to back of this monitor.

    I have attached a photo of it in action and installed at Nanny's house on top of the microwave in the corner of the kitchen... actually fits in well and is out of the road.

    And miracles upon miracles... Nanny actually likes it!! And she could read it with no problems just have to hope she doesn't unplug it but if she does start that will just box of the plug / sockets like I have done with other stuff in the house she fiddles with such as heating controls etc.

    Thanks for everyone's feedback much appreciated. So for today at least I am calling it a win wherever she is able to understand it in a month's time is April's problem!

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