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Entering the world of someone with dementia - 'time shift'

As we heard in Step 1.10, a person living with Alzheimer’s disease is likely to face difficulties storing and retrieving new memories which can lead to them becoming ‘time-shifted’.

A person who is time shifted may interpret what is happening in the present by drawing on memories of the past. Memory is lost the way a factory would make redundancies: last in, first to go. As the condition progresses, they may in effect shift further back in time.

A person who is time-shifted is still involved in relationships, has desires they wish to fulfil and concerns they wish to express. So we need to find ways of interacting effectively by having a commitment to understanding the meaning of what they are conveying or experiencing.

We know that memories associated with strong emotions are more likely to be retrieved than everyday routine happenings - key milestones and events in a person’s life (both positive and negative) will stay with them for longer. We also know that their current emotional state or surroundings can trigger emotional memories or associations from the distant past. These memories will be used to make sense of experiences in the here and now.

So we can support a person who may be time-shifted by ‘entering their world’ and knowing as much about them as possible.

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This article is from the free online course:

Dementia Care: Staying Connected and Living Well

Newcastle University

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