Hello readers! I would like to inform you that this blog has reached its end. Thank you all for reading and stay tuned for a new blog in the future.

Dementia Test

        Did you know that you can test yourself to see if your cognitive skills are slipping below average, which might signal early dementia? The Ohio State University has  developed a self-administered gerocognitive exam (SAGE) which is similar to the ones the medical profession employs when they diagnose patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.  Research underscores the importance of early detection since the new medications available today only help in the early stages of the disease.

       If you are interested in having a look at the exam,  which can be completed within 15 minutes, you can find a copy as well as the scoring instructions at:

www.sagetest.osu.edu

Keep It Short

       When they invented instant coffee they had no idea that it would eventually lead to instant messaging, twittering and texting. We are all about instant gratification, we want it now and we want it fast, and OMG don’t worry about the spelling. Shorter, faster, better is the mantra of the twenty-first century. I support  the simplification of English spelling, all those silent letters and apostrophes, who needs them? I also like  the quick read idea. I have read Dickens and wordier books, but who has time for them today when we can read a quick blog or a postcard story. There are even websites dedicated to short writing, one is www.SmithMag.net . They compiled the Six-Word Memoirs, by writers famous and obscure. It’s a fun read and I have used it in my memoir writing class to get students to write their own  memoirs. Another one is www.sixsentences.bogspot.com . They recently had a call out asking “What can you write in 6 sentences?” I sent my six sentences and they included it in their latest published book, 6S,Word of Mouth! Then they invited everyone to come to the White Horse Tavern in New York City for a meet and greet. Apparently this is where Thomas Dylan drank. It is the only remaining Greenwich Village writer’s bar which dates back to the 1880’s. It all sounds great, but I live in BC, a six-hour flight away, so I’ve had to deep six the invitation and search for a local writer’s bar.

Future Book Sales

       I just read a statistic which said that the average person buys one book a year. Yikes! That does not bode well for those of us who want to sell our books, unless you are J.K. Rowling or Yann Martel, known for The Life of Pi. Martel just received a three million dollar deal for his new book, Beatrice and Virgil, about a monkey and a donkey discussing the holocaust with a taxidermist! Now why didn’t I come up with that topic? It seems that there is an appetite for bizarre and quirky topics.  Another quirky book making headlines recently is Darwin’s Bastards: Astounding Tales From Tomorrow. This collection of short stories was edited by Zsuzsi Gartner and with a name like Zsuzsi you have to expect the unexpected. Here is my list of new and bizarre writing topics:

  • A pit bull and a vulture discuss genocide with an undertaker
  • A polar bear and a swarm of honey bees discuss climate change with a  real estate agent
  • A cuckoo bird and a rat discuss global trade issues with the National Gun Association
  • A parrot and a dolphin discuss dementia with an auctioneer

Good luck writing your quirky best seller.

Communication Tips

       Communicating with someone with Alzheimer’s disease who has language difficulties, requires lots of patience, understanding, skill and creativity.  One of the keys in communicating effectively is eliminating background noise such as TV or radio or other distractions. Sometimes this is not possible, but it might be possible to move to a less distracting area before you start talking. It is always a good start to get the person’s attention by using eye contact, therefore having a conversation when you are in another room will not get favorable results.

       Here are a few other points to consider:

  • speak slowly and clearly
  • pay attention to see if they understood you before going on
  • repeat important information, but keep it simple
  • show and talk, give a visual clue
  • allow time for them to respond

       Be aware of your body language as well as tone of voice and facial expressions. It is easier on everyone when you can join the Alzheimer patient in their reality rather than argue with them.  The story of Rose is a good example.  Rose was a very sweet lady but at dinner time she often  became upset because she thought she had to sing later and she couldn’t remember the music. The staff often told her she didn’t have to sing, but Rose still couldn’t let it go until one day they told her they already booked someone else to perform.  That creative response calmed Rose down. We learned later that Rose was an accomplished soloist in her day and often performed for the troops during the war.

       The quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s disease depends largely  on the interactions  with others who care for them. Understanding how to deal with communication issues helps  to lessen the frustration for everyone.

Communication

       Alzheimer’s disease and dementia usually progresses to the point where language skills are impacted.  This may include difficulty in finding the correct words and following the thread of conversations. There may even be times when the person is in the middle of a sentence and forgets what they were talking about.  Outside distractions may be harder to tune out as well, particularly if the conversation is happening in a large or noisy room.  The attention span becomes shorter. There will also be signs that  the person may not comprehend what is being said to them because they have lost the ability to make connections. I recall an instance when my mother and I were visiting dad in the ICU unit at the hospital and we explained the No Scent rule to mom as, don’t wear your perfume.  The next day however she wore dad’s after shave lotion, not making the connection that they are similar.

       The loss of verbal communication makes people rely more on non-verbal signs. Being aware of this can help the affected person feel less isolated and less misunderstood as well as lessening the frustration level for both parties. A communications study has found that 93% of all communication is actually non-verbal, which surprised me. We don’t often think of tone and pitch of voice as well as body language to be as important as it is. However these become increasingly more important when dealing with someone who is struggling with their language skills due to memory loss.

      Stay tuned for some communication tips next time.

Voice

       We talk about voice in writing, but today I want to  say a few words about the speaking voice.  The other day when I was shopping I ran into a young sales girl whose voice was very irritating.  I have been analyzing her voice ever since. As a writer I wondered how I could describe it on the page, but I also wondered why she talked like that. When I got through the line and handed her my purchases, she didn’t say anything unusual, but her tone was unusual. It was not what we call California up talk, it was a very high-pitched, overly happy voice, the kind you might use on a small toddler. I told her, “It’s OK. you can use your normal voice with me,” and she answered, “What do you mean?”

      Well I was stumped. How do you describe a normal voice to someone who doesn’t seem to have one? I wanted to say, ‘dial it down a notch,’ or ‘lose the high pitch’ or talk like an adult’, but those comments all sounded rude in my head. Then I thought it might sound better to say, ‘well aren’t you the happy one today,’ but then again that would have made me sound grumpy. Parroting back with the same phony voice would be mocking her. Before my purchase was completed she paged someone over the P.A. system using the same voice!

       I answered her question with, “Are you always this happy?”

       “Oh no,” she said in her high-pitched  sing songy voice, “But at work we have to be friendly.”

         I guess it takes practice to be friendly and happy and sound like an adult.