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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Yesterday I went to two couples' homes to coach the caregiver. In both instances the person with dementia was invited to be present (one simply sat down intending to be involved; the other hovered around the kitchen door waiting to be invited in). This was a wondrous time for me to learn how the disease (one has Alzheimer's the other Lewy Body Disease) impacts the life of a man. Both men were strong willed, wanting to be in control of his life, his stuff, and had led a responsible life of work. Both also had lots of trouble getting to say what he wanted. Both had expressive aphasia, one was more impaired than the other. It was a chance to model a way of speaking that empowers the person with aphasia to converse.
I went over these some in my previous blog of a few days ago, but one of our coaches said today, and I agree, that people find it very hard to learn this new way of speaking. Both the wives obviously loved and admired their husbands, but both were frustrated trying to stay in relationship with them in this new normal; dementia.
Modeling is the best way to learn as one can see the benefits right away. So, I asked closed ended questions, waited for answers, repeated something after asking if he understood the question and again waiting for a response.
At the end of the second visit I asked the husband, "Do you know what the hardest thing about this disease is for you?" Notice I did not ask, "What is the hardest part of this disease for you?". That would be an open ended question much more difficult to process. I waited for the answer. He replied, "That I could go through that door there (the kitchen) turn left, have someone ask me what we just talked about, and I wouldn't have a clue." I asked, "Did you enjoy the conversation?" "Yes.", he said. "Can that be enough?" I asked further. "Yes, I enjoyed it very much." "I sometimes see a movie, enjoy it thoroughly and promptly forget most of it," I added. Maybe the moment is what matters most; the enjoyment of the moment.
What a great day for me as a coach to have experienced these men and their wives. I am blessed!
One of my coaches gave me a plaque that hangs on a wall in a prominent place (the downstairs bathroom). It says,        We Don't Remember Days; We Remember Moments
How very true. I won't forget the moments of those visits for some time to come!

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