Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The more things change...

I have a new hospice patient, and I am really enjoying visiting and spending time with her. She has dementia, but its not too far advanced yet, so she's still pretty engaged. We are able to have fairly long conversations, even though much of the subject matter doesn't always make sense. Talking to her reminds me of talking to Dad, back when his illness hadn't progressed to where it is now, and I feel a little sad.

I've noticed many of the same verbal tics and ways to cover up mistakes or forgotten information that Dad used to use. He got really good at covering up, and would use certain open-ended or vague phrases that very carefully obscured the fact that he didn't know what I had asked or what I was talking about. There were times when I found it infuriating, even though I could guess how hard it must have been for him to not have that information available to him anymore. My new patient has a few stock phrases, too, and I feel so sorry for her because I know where this is going for her. It's only going to get worse.

My Dad wasn't a big talker anyway; we spent long stretches of time quietly together. But there were times when he felt a little loquacious and chatty, times when he actively wanted to engage with me. I always tried to make him feel listened to, and as if he had been engaged in a full, satisfying conversation where his opinion mattered and he was heard. It was one thing I was really good at with him.

He can't really do that anymore-he's gone past the stage of engaging. Spending time with this lady makes me feel like I've got a little bit of him back again-it feels familiar because of the way she talks, so similarly to Dad. It does make me sad that she will eventually reach the stage where Dad is now, but until then, I'll keep trying to make her feel like her words matter, just like I did with Dad.

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