1. the imparting or exchanging of information or news
synonyms: transmission, imparting, conveying, presenting, passing on…
2. the successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings
There’s little transmission, imparting, conveying going on in our home these days. The successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings is almost nonexistent. At this stage of Bob with one o’s dementia, this is the hardest thing for me. I’m experiencing such an odd feeling of loneliness even though I’m sitting right next to my husband.
I’ve been told that dementia/Alzheimer’s causes the person with the disease to only catch a few of the words that are spoken in a sentence. They just cannot grasp or retain the other words. So, what they hear doesn’t make any sense to them. When I say, “can you hand me the TV remote”, I have no idea what Bob is hearing but it’s not enough for him to understand. He just stares at me even if I repeat the sentence 3 or 4 times. It took me a while to realize that it was not his hearing (as I spoke louder and louder with each repeat), but it was a comprehension problem. Maybe he does not understand the word remote or maybe he misses several of the words that I say and he only hears “can hand me”. I don’t know because Bob can’t explain. I am only guessing what is going on inside his brain that makes a simple sentence so confusing.
When Bob talks to me there are times when I have no idea what he is talking about. This is especially true when he is tired. He will tell me something with lots of mixed up words and lots of incomplete sentences. Even if I can’t understand what he is talking about, I try to show an interest, not scowl, and then respond as best I can. Quite often I say “that’s cool” or “oh yeah” just because I really don’t know what I am responding to. It’s a strange way to communicate. Talk about crazy relationship dynamics!
Bob’s talk often includes rambling sentences, mumbled words, mixed up pronouns, soft spoken words that I can’t hear, and made up words I’ve never even heard before. Often, he’ll start a conversation and then lose his train of thought. This really use to frustrate me and make me angry. I would question Bob as to what he was talking about and ask him to repeat and clarify. A tense “give and take” would occur as he fumbled more and more with trying to find the words as I pushed him harder. Fortunately for both of us, I no longer try that lousy technique! I’m learning.
An “ah-ha moment” recently made me come to terms with all of this. Now I realize that Bob must feel equally frustrated when I talk to him. If he is not able to understand what I am saying or asking, he must think that I’m not speaking clearly. I’m now sure that Bob must think it’s me that is making this difficult for him. Communication just isn’t going to be how it used to be and will only worsen as this disease progresses. Whether it be that he cannot understand me, or I cannot understand him, it’s going to be extremely hard on both of us.
My goal is to be a loving wife and gentle caregiver and make the best of our days together. I’ll try to speak in clear sentences, use simple terms, NOT use logic or reasoning, and repeat what I’m saying if needed. If sometimes Bob just doesn’t understand or even respond to me, I’ll try to accept that and not overreact.
When Bob is trying to tell me something, I will listen and encourage him to take his time. I will try not to be annoyed or critical. I won’t correct him or walk away in frustration. As you probably suspect, I’ve done all of these things many times, so I know that they don’t help.
I plan on communicating with smiles, kisses, handholding, and lots of good food and slow walks. If our days end up being spent in silence, so be it. Bob will know what I’m saying.
Celebrating our April 2020 Birthdays!
P.S. I wrote this blog over the course of a couple of days and I’ve had a chance to think it over before I published it. I want to clarify that this communication craziness is not 100% of the time. There are moments and times when we can actually talk. Usually it’s in the morning when Bob’s fresh and more alert. The conversations are simple, but they still exist. I think I’m hyper-focused on the lack of conversations as we are entering our 10th week of quarantine. The isolation has been hard. Pre-Coronavirus days, we had a social life. We loved having friends and family over so that we had the chance to talk with others. Our church outings with family filled a social as well as spiritual void. Going to the Zoo, SeaWorld, Balboa Park, beach, and movies filled up the quiet moments. Now the days are long and sometimes boring. I can’t wait to fill our house up with family and friends and once again enjoy the successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings! The sooner, the better.