Monday, 29 April 2013

Variations on the basic theme

Extending the possibilities...

The Dementia Day Clock for Digital Photo Frames, is designed to help people living with dementia, to enable them to recognise which day it is, along with the current period of the day - Morning, Afternoon, Evening or Night.

A Day Clock may not be suitable for everyone living with dementia. Using a commercially available Digital Photo Frame, along with the images available here, will help you find out if a Day Clock is suitable - free (apart from the cost of the Photo Frame). If the Day Clock does not prove suitable, the Photo Frame can still be used to display photos from the past, helping to prompt discussion about the times the person living with dementia, can still remember.

The files for the Day Clock are currently set up to display just the day and the period of the day. However, the whole system is flexible enough to provide other visual prompts at various times of the day.

A simple change, would be to replace the Night period so that it would say "It is now time to Sleep".

Then, there are other possibilities...

It is now time to Wake Up.
It is now time for Breakfast.
It is now time for Lunch.
It is now time for Dinner.

Each of these would display for an hour at the appropriate time, after which the clock would return to the normal Day and Day Period display.

Further research...

I'm also looking into the possibilities of using Digital Photo Frames capable of playing sound files, so that an audible message is played at a specific time.

If you have any suggestions about improving the Dementia Day Clock for Digital Photo frames, please feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Questions about the Day Clock for Digital Photo Frames

Some questions I've been asked

Being a member of a number of forums, relating to carers and dementia, where I've informed other members about how to create the Day Clock, a number of questions have been asked. I will try to answer some of them here, and update the answers as more information is gained.

Q. Do the images go out of sync if there is a power failure?

A. First, I'll mention the commercially available Day Clock. According to their instructions, "if mains power is removed or fails, the time and date options will need resetting."

As for commercially available Digital Photo Frames, this would firstly depend on whether they have a battery back-up or not. If they do, then the time and date should be retained, however, the images may not be in sync. If they are not, then they would need to be advanced to the correct day and time.

This process is simple, simpler in fact, than trying to adjust a mains powered digital clock. As stated in the instructions in the previous post, all that needs to be done is to advance the images to that of the correct day and hour - so Tuesday at 3pm would be image 2_15 (Day 2 at 15:00 hours).

Q. What happens if it is unplugged? Quote: "This might work for many but I have tried this and my dad unplugs everything when he goes to bed and turns it on again in the morning. The frame I used didn't have enough battery back-up and everything had to be re-set which wasn't practical. Great idea though."

A. Of course, this is a problem when the person you care for, has a habit of unplugging things. Whilst there is no direct solution to this regarding Digital Photo Frames, a few environmental modifications may help. Try to plug the frame into a socket that is both out of reach, and out of sight. Use a wall mountable frame, and hide any cabling in a plastic conduit - tell the person you care for that the frame is battery operated (partly true).

There are also, a few short term battery operated Digital Photo Frames. Philips certainly make one, and it will run for up to 8 hours on battery power. But it will still need to be plugged in for most of the time, to recharge the batteries. They are also much more expensive.

Q. What about when a person's faculties begin to deteriorate? Quote: "I think it's a fantastic idea and apart from the obvious problems of power cuts and deteriorating faculties, is a splendid idea for the time it's useful and that can be quite extended, I know it would have been useful for Mam for the last couple of years."

A. There are a number of ways of extending the useful "life" of the Day Clock. A dementia sufferer may no longer be able to read the words, but the meaning of the images may still be understood. When this happens, a series of slides, with the images only can be used (these will be available soon - but should only be used after the original slides, as there would be no established image perception).

If the images are no longer understood, it may then be possible to substitute simple colours - colours that closely match those of the images used previously (these slides will also be made available here). Once colour perception is lost, the colours can be replaced by tonal values, cool grey (Morning), warm white (Afternoon), warm grey (Evening) and black (Night). After this point, we would need to replace any visual stimulus with sound (hearing, unless this has been lost for other reasons, is the last of the senses to go - something else I am looking into).

All of these solutions may, or may not work for the person concerned, and should only be used in sequence. It is unlikely that the dementia sufferer would understand their meaning, if they were introduced to the system half way through the cycle.

There can be no guarantee that such a Day Clock will work for everyone. Some people with dementia develop a mistrust of many things, and may believe the clock to be set to the wrong time. All I can suggest is that if you wish to try them with a Day Clock, then do - if it works for them, great! If not, at least the Digital Photo Frame can then be used for what it is, and loaded up with photos from the person's past, to help them recall the things they can remember.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Day Clock for people living with dementia

Day Clock for Digital Photo Frames

This particular Day Clock was created for my Mother, who is 86, and was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2011. It is in her bedroom, and sits next to her TV, which she watches most of the time. It is clearly visible to her for most of the day, and throughout the night. I have made the files needed to create a similar clock, freely available to all who would find it useful for a parent, relative, friend or patient, who has dementia. There is a similar, commercially available Day Clock for people with Dementia, created by the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering (BIME), but many Digital Photo Frames can be used in a similar way to create this Day Clock.

For those wishing to find out more about BIME the link is here, or you can contact their Deputy Director by email here If you wish to purchase the BIME DayClock then please visit

The Digital Photo Frame illustrated above, is a Motorola MLC800, this is the model I have used to create the Day Clock. As you can see, it has its own built in clock and calendar - these can be switched off, if they are not required (I find the clock and calendar useful, but they are of no significance to my Mother). The clock has only been up and running a week, and I have already noticed that the "It is now" part of the message is irrelevant - so I will produce a new set of slides where these words are omitted.

PLEASE NOTE! There are at least two versions of the MLC800, and not all models seem to be able to display the time and calendar as well as the image. Others have reported that the Motorola MF801 does work.

Before you consider paying for an expensive Digital Photo Frame based Day Clock, try this. Why? Because Day Clocks do not work for all people with dementia. This way, you can try it out, and if it works, then fine. If it doesn't, you'll still have a photo frame, that can be loaded with images from your loved one's past, to use as a visual prompt to encourage conversation about their past memories - the ones they retain the longest.

The principle behind this clock is to enable those with Alzheimer's and other forms of Dementia, to have a better perception of the time of day. Rather than displaying the time, the clock displays a period during the day or night, along with the actual day.

The current slides have a photo background relevant to the period of day, to help with visual perception. There will soon be other types of slides. Slides with a coloured background, again relevant to the period of the day. Slides on a white background for Morning and Afternoon, and a black background for Evening and Night. Or slides simply on a non-changing black or white background.

This particular set of images is optimised for use on an 8” frame with a 4:3 aspect ratio and an 800x600 pixel display. Suitable 7" or 8” frames can be obtained for around £30 to £40. There will soon be slides for 16:9 apsect ratio frames with a 480x234 pixel display.


How it works

Many Digital Photo Frames allow for a slide show duration of one hour, for each slide. In order to use this system, you need to ensure that the Digital Photo Frame used, allows for a one hour slide duration.

The system uses four separate periods for each day – Morning, Afternoon, Evening and Night. Morning and Afternoon each have a six hour duration, Morning – 6am to 12 noon, Afternoon – 12 noon to 6pm. Evening has a four hour duration – 6pm to 10pm, and Night has an eight hour duration – 10pm to 6am.

The day displayed does not change until the Morning period, so for example, Sunday Night remains until 6am the following day when it then becomes Monday Morning, in line with the perception that we go to sleep on one day (Sunday), and wake up the following day (Monday). This is to avoid any confusion that may be caused by changing say Monday Night into Tuesday Night at midnight. If someone was to wake up at 2am after going to sleep on Monday Night, and the display tells them it is now Tuesday Night, they may think they have been asleep for over 24 hours.

File naming system

The image file naming system is based simply on a day number and an hour number. Monday is 1, Tuesday is 2 etc. The hours are simply based on the 24 hour clock. The slide for Monday (day 1) at midnight is named 1_00 (day 1, 00:00 hours), the slide for Wednesday (day 3) at 2pm is named 3_14 (day 3, 14:00 hours). All of the daily periods can be changed, simply by copying and pasting the relevant images and then changing the file name in accordance with the above naming principle.

Changing the duration of day periods

The basic 6 hour principle, is used to separate the two daytime periods – Morning and Afternoon, whilst a 4/8 split is used for the two night time periods, 4 hours for Evening and 8 hours for Night. These periods can be adjusted to suit the person concerned. Evening, for example, can be shortened - so that it exists between just 6pm and 9pm, after which it becomes Night. To do this, all that needs to be done, is to copy a Night image for a particular day, paste it, and rename it to replace the later Evening images. So, for example, where Monday Evening at 9pm is 1_21, the Monday Night copy, would be renamed 1_21 to replace it. The night period would then be 9 hours, instead of eight. Repeat this, for each day of the week.

When to adjust the duration of day periods

If the person concerned is known to you, and their daily patterns are also known, then duration adjustments can be made in accordance with your own personal knowledge of that person. If, however, such a pattern is unknown, it would be advised that adhering to the basic 6 hour daytime and 4/8 hour nighttime principle, would probably the best solution in the short term.

Setting up the Digital Photo Frame

Once the files have been downloaded, extracted (from the zip file), and any duration adjustments have been made, copy the images (not the folder) to any of the types of media accepted by your Digital Photo Frame, and insert the media into the Photo Frame. Set up the slide show, in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions, for each slide to change after one hour, and in sequence (don't use random, otherwise the day clock will display the wrong images, at the wrong time).

Again, in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions, advance to the relevant slide for the day and hour of the day of the set up. So, for example, if you have set it up on Thursday at or after 3pm, and before 4pm, advance the slide show to image 4_15 (Thursday (Day 4) at 15:00 hrs). As long as the slide show is set to be on permanently, the clock will now change according to the day period and the day.

If your Digital Photo Frame has a “Night Mode”, ensure that this is switched to “Off”, otherwise the sequence of slides may be interrupted during the night, and will no longer display the correct slide for the time of day.

If your Photo Frame does not change the image on the hour (many do), it is advisable to set up your Photo Frame as close to the change of the hour as possible.

Adjusting for Daylight Saving Time

When the time comes to change in accordance with daylight saving time adjustments, either advance (Spring) or go back (Autumn) one slide, so that the day clock reflects the time adjustment.

Key requirements for suitable Digital Photo Frames


  • 7" or 8” diagonal display size
  • 800x600 pixel display
  • 4:3 aspect ratio
  • 1 hour slide duration
  • Auto dim for night time use
  • Minimum imternal memory of at least 16Mb, or external digital media such as SD cards, USB flash etc. (External digital media normally needs to be purchased separately)


Use of this system

No guarantees are made that this system will work successfully on any Digital Photo Frame used. However, if you do use it and find it useful, or indeed have any suggestions for improvement, then please contact

Other languages

The slides are currently only in English, it is my intention, over the next few months, to create slides for other languages, initially these will be French, German, Italian and Spanish. Other languages will be added later.

Download images here: 


File type: zip (containing 168 JPEG images), file size: 13Mb. is my own website address. The file has been tested and found to be free of any viruses, trojans etc. If, however, you have any concerns, then please ensure that the file is scanned before opening.

I have also created a set of files which do not include the words "It is now", these are available to download below.


Please feel free to comment, and if you do use the system on any Digital Photo Frame other than the model mentioned here, I would be grateful to hear from you to let me know how it worked, and any changes that may need to be made, especially regarding the frame settings. I will then be able to compile a list of the most compatible frames - which I will publish here once this information has been received.

Also - please feel free to share this blog with anyone you know who may find it useful. It's free, and I want as many people to benefit from it as possible.

Downloads and use

The system is free to download and use, for private use, in accordance with the appropriate Creative Commons License (see below).

Digital Photo Frame manufacturers - you are free to use this system under a negotiable license - contact me for further details. Non licensed use, will be pursued in accordance with international copyright laws.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.