Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Word Finding; It's a Guessing Game

We had a great birthday party for my mom this past weekend. Lots of good food, laughter and conversation made for a nice celebration. Jim did a great job helping me with what ever I needed. I didn't notice anything amiss during the party. If Jim was confused or said something that was off, I didn't see it.

After everyone left, we cleaned things up together. He was exhausted, I could tell. Evenings and times when he is tired are the hardest for him. About 2 weeks ago he had a couple of his medications changed. For some reason, after everyone left the party he became focused on the meds, saying things that didn't even make sense.

Jim: "What are the three meds?"

Me: "You mean what are the two new medications?"

Jim: "Why do you call them three different words? You're confusing me."

Me: "I'm not calling them different names, I'm using the same names. A couple of weeks ago you started two new medications; they are ____ and ____."

Jim: "There you go again.  Why do you call them three different words?"

At this point, I have no idea what to say. But I attempt to recount the history behind the two new medications and tell him that the names I'm using for the meds are the same names that I have been using for 2 weeks. I even get the bottles to show him.

None of this goes well. He is so confused. And I'm realizing that my attempts to provide clear, logical explanations are not being processed at all. So, I hold his hand, hug him, give him a kiss, and say "we're both tired, and this is hard for both of us to understand. Let's talk about it tomorrow morning when we're both more rested." He accepted that! It was that easy!

I need to remember that my attempts at rational conversation are not always processed well by him. Sometimes it is better to just keep it very simple, or as above, delay the conversation to another time. By the way, the next morning I don't think he remembered any of this conversation. He didn't bring it up, and I certainly didn't!

I usually go to bed about an hour before Jim does. He is more of a night owl, and I am the early bird. The other night when he came in to bed he woke me up to tell me that he couldn't find his glasses. I told him I'd help him find them in the morning. He accepted this and came to bed. The next morning I  said "last night you said you lost your glasses. Do you want me to help you look for them?"

Jim: "I said that?"

Me: "Yes, and I can help you look for them."

Jim: "Was I asleep when I said that?" "Were you dreaming?"

Me: "Look! Here are your glasses!"

The problem with word finding continues, and actually occurs many times a day now. This is definitely an increase from 6 months ago. It is mainly nouns, which sometimes makes it hard to figure out what he is talking about. I usually ask a bunch of questions so I can key in on what he is talking about. Fortunately he is frequently talking about something we have discussed within the last few hours, so I can usually figure it out.

Jim: "Where do you find the thing on the ..........(long pause)"

Me: "Are you talking about your car?"

Jim: "No.....you know..... the thing........" (puts hands to his head in frustration)

Me: "Are you talking about your Kindle?"

Jim: "Yes! Where is the thing on my Kindle?"

From there I was able to figure out he was looking for the volume control button. How frustrating it must be for him not to be able to articulate what he wants to say. I've gotten pretty good at guessing what he needs to say.

Sometimes I visualize his brain as full of cobwebs (plaques and tangles are the medical terms) covering all this valuable matter. If only we could brush away those cobwebs!

I read this great article that you can read here that essentially discusses the issue of "would you rather be right, or would you rather have peace". The answer is pretty easy for me. The author is Marie Marley who has written about Alzheimers based on her experiences with her husband. I might read one of her books. I say might, because I'm not sure if it would be sad, or if it would give me hope, or maybe something in-between.

I've got a great week ahead. I'm having lunch with a very dear friend of mine tomorrow. Thursday is "mom day" (groceries, errands etc), Friday is lunch with a very good friend of mine who is still working. Add in my usual YMCA classes, and I am a happy camper. Jim does best if I'm not away for a long period of time. All of these activities are within a time frame where he should be fine by himself. It's great to have these things to look forward to!

Well, thanks again dear readers for checking in with me and reading my words. As I type, I hear myself talking and smiling, knowing that very kind and thoughtful folks are listening. Until next time...


  1. I've forgotten, does Jim realize he has a problem? Listen, I will agree to just about anything to get out of one of those word tangles. I long ago gave up thinking I had to be right. I just want the session ended. Bob talks a lot. Much of what he says is just talk, doesn't need an answer. I'd be happy for him to talk and talk if he didn't require me to respond. He never gives me a break. If my mind wanders & I don't make some noise of recognition he gets upset. Some days I long for silence and to not have to repeat everything I say. You are lucky you were able to distract Jim to wait until tomorrow. It's not easy to distract Bob.

    1. No, Jim is not aware that he has any deficits. He believes that any memory lapses are simply a part of normal aging. From what I have read, it is fairly common for those with dementia to not be aware of their deficits.

      I've come to the conclusion that it's a gift that he doesn't know. I think he would be very depressed if he was aware. And, nothing really to gain since he would not be able to "fix" the problem.

      I'm inspired by your writing Linda. It gives me encouragement to read how you handle different situations. So glad we have this opportunity to share with each other.

  2. I also am glad you write these posts, Carole. I don't know how bad the mental problems we, hubby and I, have cognitively, but they are definitely there. We are both in our mid-seventies and do everything we can to keep ourselves mentally and physically active. Like you said, how does one know for sure what is normal aging and what is not? I read your posts with an open mind and compare your experiences with my own. My heart goes out to the two of you. Sending you a virtual hug. :-)

    1. Thanks DJan. Hugs right back to you :-)

      I think that some of us are more in tune, or more sensitive to cognitive changes we experience as we age. On the one hand, you have someone like Jim who is very impaired, but has no awareness of his significant decline. Then there are folks like you and me, who may have a lapse now and then, or may require notes to ourselves to help us remember, or maybe have an occasional lapse finding the right word. This https://www.alz.org/national/documents/aa_brochure_10warnsigns.pdf
      is a great article that succinctly shows the difference between normal aging and Alzheimer's. I think it will reassure you :-)

  3. I so admire your desire to be at peace rather than right. I know some people would find that almost impossible to manage as they have to be right. How stressful that must be. Jim is so lucky to have you on his side.

    1. Thanks Patti. Jim and I found each other so many years ago and really have given each other a wonderful life. We have a nice home, are financially comfortable, love each other and still enjoy each other's company. When I have my discouraging moments, it helps to put everything in perspective when I remember how lucky we both are to have found each other in this life.

      Thanks for your encouraging words :-)

  4. Oh Carole, what a poignant description of how it goes for you, some days! I do appreciate the detail you offer - it's like being in a virtual support group. I also appreciate the book suggestion - found that Maria Marley's are available on Kindle for only $4 or so, and ordered one for my "library". I do all my Alzheimer-related reading on the iPad, so the books aren't lying around the house causing upset or embarrassment. I wish to the depths of my heart that we could discuss and read about Alzheimer's together - but that is apparently not going to be the case. So, I feel my way along, judging the best way to handle all the various things that happen.
    And I'll tell you this - I definitely prefer peace!

    1. Virtual support group...it does feel that way! I like that! You'll have to let me know how you like Maria Marley's book. Thanks for your comment Jan. I definitely feel a kinship with you and what you (and I) are going through.

  5. It's good that you can leave him at home for brief periods of time, because in some cases, the patient does wander off in the neighborhood and gets lost.

    1. Yes, in more advanced cases you are so right. Jim still is good for getting around locally. He also prefers to have me with him when he wants to go some place. So that is a good thing! :-)

  6. I think it must be challenging to not respond always and with logic as we generally do. Repestedlyi doing so expect it gradually becomes more automátic.
    Glad you had a happy birthday celebration & able to be out other times with friends. Wonder if you can use some consistent phrases like "show me" or "point to" for some word finding? Also, if not now, maybe at some time having pictures helps some to point to.

    1. We went out to dinner this weekend with friends of ours. Jim did not display any of his usual word finding difficulties. In retrospect, I believe he avoided talking about anything where he would have struggled with finding a word. It was light hearted conversation, which was easy for him.

      Does this mean that at some level he knows of his deficit (subconsciously)? I believe he feels very "safe" with me, and feels comfortable with revealing his word finding difficulty and allowing me to help him with the conversation. Perhaps I'm not seeing this when others are around, as he may be careful to limit his conversation to language that flows more easily for him.

      It is on the one hand, clinically interesting to note the difference. But sad from a personal perspective. Thanks for your comment Joared! I appreciated your most recent post, by the way.

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