Monday, September 12, 2016

Speaking with Memory Gaps

It was about a year ago, six months before we moved to Provision Living, that my wife directed me to turn left at Broadway and Stadium. I figured she wanted to go to Hardies. We drove past it. Past the next three intersections.

As we approached Interstate 70 she pointed to the right. Again we drove past several off ramps as we headed east. I double-checked where I was to drive after passing Interstate 63. We were in the country now. As we approached the Lindbergh exit she indicated we needed to use it. Then left over the bridge. North through Stephens. As we spotted the mail boxes on the side of the road she said, “This is were T___ and L___ live.”

What I had suspected from our last few trips to fast food shops was true. She can no long tell me where she wants to go but can direct me. Then from the previous post:
My wife has adjusted to that last move. Our apartment and the activity areas are no longer separate places to her. A few days ago she blocked the apartment door open and went back and forth between these two separate spaces. She only did that on one day.  Later, I did the same thing to see her response. She did not like the door to be blocked open by me.
As a child would do, she was proving her new discovery to herself (and to me). She did not want me to repeat (actually, reverse) her message.

The last few days she picks up items and taps my arm with them. Her best Mom and Dad picture is about every 5th item. I always say, “Yes” and then comment on each item. This happens in the evening for 15 to 30 minutes at a time.

This evening we went on our first drive around in over two months. She did not get upset when I asked her for directions at each intersection. We ended up at the Hy-Vee gas station near our old house. Then south on Scott past our old subdivision, The Hamlet, to Esther Lee Ct (named after her mother) where a new house is started in the last vacant lot. She was bothered by my turning into the court. Then south to the roundabout at the Hinkson Creek where Scott is now closed; and turned east. At the golf course she was ready to go home. She recognized Forum Boulevard and the turn north toward Chapel Hill Road. Provision Living was where me turned into our home.

She was content. No problem getting her to leave the car. She no longer recognizes our car so we can again park it outside the apartment rather than on the backside of the building out of sight.

She was eager to get back into memory care and knew her directions. I unlocked our apartment door as she paused by the nearby window at the end of the hall. I said, “I am leaving it unlocked.” She came to the door and again paused, looking toward the activity area. I said, “You can go there and join the other people.” Again, a pause. And then for the first time took off on her fast pace to join them. So that leaves me here writing this post.

We can now communicate again. For the past few weeks I was again getting that uncomfortable feeling that we were drifting apart, un-bonding. She is fun again, in a limited fashion. I can write about recent events.

We can again make a game of finding lost items. This time by her rules. Not by finding specific items but by finding things, in general, that include items that strike her fancy at that moment; which she lines up on an emptied shelf.  With luck one of them may be what I need to find: tooth brush, comb, soap tray, one pair of the 20 pair of socks hidden throughout the apartment, and etc. I now understand how she can sort and rearrange her keepsakes for hours at a time.

It is pointless to ask her where the spot is in which she has just found something. She cannot tell me. Also, the idea that some related item may be at that spot is equally in vain.

She does a good job of housekeeping. If things get to the point I feel I need to help her, the next morning the floor is clear again. Our studio apartment is getting larger every day as she sorts and condenses things and as we discover how few things we really need to live here. The dining and activity areas are, at last, part of our house.

I have checked the Boone County Library for the references in the last post and for this one on communication. I found none of these, but dozens of books, DVDs and e-books.

There is a marked difference between theory and keen observation. Naomi Feil, who started Validation, is a keen observer. She saw, and then thought, what many others missed. This short film shows how it is possible to communicate with a person in a most extreme condition; a validation breakthrough. This film is hard to watch with our normal expectations. It is a masterpiece if you read and understand the following paragraph (which is difficult to do if you have not lived 6 months in residential care including memory care).

Other material available helps get across what it means to value a person as a person rather than by their diagnosis, productivity, title or wealth.  The catch is a practitioner must do this for himself before he can have the empathy needed to connect with the patient or resident without distractions. This is almost a religious experience. It borders on an out-of-body experience. It takes me back to the time I almost answered the call to train as a minister (instead, many years later, I got a BS in chemistry as a foundation for understanding the world about me).

There is hope now that we will be able to communicate until our “days are numbered”; from dust to dust.

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