Saturday, July 2, 2016

Mental Gymnastics

One of my favorite bloggers recently wrote a very funny post about her husband using too many pronouns http://bagladyinwaiting.blogspot.com/2016/06/bag-lady-report-conversations-with.html I had to laugh when I read it, because Jim has often done that over the years. However lately it is more than just trying to figure out who he is talking about. It is often what he is talking about that keeps me guessing.

We went for a lovely walk today around a small lake. Temperatures in the low 70's, sunny, light breeze. Just a beautiful day. Stopping for ice cream on the way home made it all the more special. While driving home, out of the blue, Jim said "maybe we should go there".

Me: "Go where?"

Jim: "you know....." (long pause, I could see he was desperately trying to retrieve the correct words).

Me: (searching my brain for any inkling of what he might be trying to say) "go to the store?"

Jim: "no, up here" (pointing straight ahead).

Me: (finally figuring out this was a reference to a conversation we had yesterday) "you mean the Jazz Fest?"

Jim: "Yes!"

I cannot imagine how frustrating this must be for him. Things like this happen several times a day,  where he struggles to find the words he wants to say.

We went to a men's store to buy him a new suit for an upcoming wedding. He picked out a very nice suit. While he was changing back into his street clothes, the salesman and I picked out 4 ties that would go nicely with the suit. Jim comes out of the dressing room, and I ask him if he likes any of the ties we picked out. He quickly pointed to one and said "this is OK". We're at the register cashing out and the salesperson puts the tie into a bag. I'm finalizing the payment, and Jim suddenly says "wait, what about a tie?" The salesman quickly says "you picked one out; it's in this bag!" Jim clearly does not remember this and tells the salesman "no I didn't!"

I hate situations like this. It leaves everyone feeling bad. To make the best of it, I pulled the tie out of the bag and said "maybe you would like to look at other ties to see which one you like". This worked well, and he picked out a beautiful tie that goes well with the suit.

When we got home he fretted over the next two days about alterations that are being done on the suit. He was convinced that the tailor did not know that the legs needed to be tapered a bit and hemmed. I just kept reassuring him that the tailor pinned the pants so that the fit would be just right for him. Fortunately he believed me, and he did not call the tailor.

On our return from Florida this spring, we discovered a pine tree that had fallen during high winds. We had a local landscaper remove the tree and replace it with another, smaller one. In normal conditions the new tree would not need too much attention, but this has been a very dry, hot month and the tree is starting to show some damage from the heat and dryness. In retrospect, it should have been watered by us. But I have never paid attention to these kinds of things, because Jim did all of the landscaping work, and loved it. Times have changed.

Jim pointed out the brown areas on the tree and angrily said he was going to call Pete and ask him what he was going to do about it. Jim had the details all wrong. He insisted that this occurred 3 years ago and that it cost $1200. (It was only $350). And it wasn't Pete; Pete was the builder who built our house 11 years ago. Oh my goodness.

Realizing that the damage to the tree was our fault because we did not properly water it, I knew I had to intervene. Otherwise he would have called the wrong guy demanding that he replace the tree. I gently tried to relay the facts. At first he insisted that my memory on the facts was incorrect. Fortunately I keep track of everything! I was able to pull out my expense sheet from May of this year to show him the details of who, when, and what happened. It worked.

Mental gymnastics is what I am calling it these days. When things are said that are not accurate, I do not correct unless it is important to do so. Can you imagine what it would be like to have someone correcting you all day long? Not good.

So I put on my "caregiver filter" as I call it. This filter helps me to try to understand what he is saying,  helping him to fill in the gaps when needed. I try to handle situations in ways that do not hurt his feelings. I'm not perfect, and never will be, but I am definitely getting better at it.


10 comments:

  1. Sounds like you're doing very well at it. Bob is very aware he's losing words. When that happens I just say "talk to me about it" and he either talks himself into the word or more often gives me the clue I need to guess what he's talking about. We had a merry time this week over lost eyeglasses. Even now I don't understand what happened. I just know that in the end we came out with two pair of glasses, which was the right number. It got so wild for a while I thought maybe I was losing it but suddenly one day a pair of glasses showed up that'd been missing for months. He said it just came to him they were in a shirt pocket in the back of his closet. Weird.

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    1. I like your approach of saying "talk to me about it". I'll try that next time. A lot of trial and error figuring out what works best. Funny story about the eyeglasses! So glad the lost is found :-)

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  2. Thanks for this, Carole. The "caregiver filter" is a good concept - it comes easier with use, for the most part, I find. Occasionally, it's not easy at all!
    We aren't dealing with word-finding difficulties, (yet, anyway) so I guess it all depends on which exact parts of the brain are involved. If that does happen, these are good strategies - both you and LInda's.

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    1. It is fascinating to read others' blogs (like yours!) and realize how there are so many similarities, yet still a lot of differences in how the cognitive deficits are manifested. There are so many different types of dementia. I'm learning as much as I can so I can better understand and prepare for changes that are coming our way.

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  3. I am always impressed how both you and Linda gently guide your husbands without offending them. That is quite a skill. It must be a help being in contact with others in a similar boat.

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    1. Yes it is! The support I receive from other bloggers is invaluable. We share with and learn from each other. The knowledge that someone else is going through something similar is somehow reassuring. I feel less alone.

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  4. It must be very frustrating to witness his mental deterioration and confusion. You are so patient.

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    1. It is hard sometimes, and yes, frustrating to witness these changes. It helps me to be more patient when I think about the fact that he is the victim, with no control over this cognitive decline.

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  5. I've always shared as an important strategy for individuals with "word finding problems" to use -- talk around the word, anything you think of connected to the subject. Playing "20 Questions" 24/7 is challenging, takes energy and lots of patience, so I laud your efforts.

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    1. It has to be so frustrating for him. Language is something we take for granted every day in our lives! Not so for those with this dreadful cognitive impairment. Your professional background gives you a lot of experience in this area.

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