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 Nothing but words 
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Joined: Tue Mar 29, 2011 3:19 pm
Posts: 6
Post Nothing but words
I've a quandary: How to converse with my husband (LBD). When I talk to him about anything, he hears it all scrambled (ditto when he tries to read anything). I know he doesn't get the gist of the conversation. Or the instructions. And when he speaks to me, well, it devolves into nonsense---though I can usually interpret his meaning. Usually. Not that my LO is out-of-it---he lives with me at home, can do simple chores and goes through his day the best he can. It's just that our language just doesn't make sense to one another. I've lived in foreign lands and never had this much trouble communicating before. What to do?

Wed Apr 27, 2011 4:21 pm

Joined: Wed Dec 30, 2009 1:46 pm
Posts: 3213
Location: WA
Post Re: Nothing but words
Good question and one I wish I could answer. I have learned to minimize conversation, use more gestures and touch. In answer to his nonsensical [to me] questions, I usually try to nod and say, 'Could be!', or 'You're probably right.' 'I don't really know', or something equally noncommittal.

Pat [68] married to Derek [84] for 38 years; husband dx PDD/LBD 2005, probably began 2002 or earlier; late stage and in a SNF as of January 2011. Hospitalized 11/2/2013 and discharged to home Hospice. Passed away at home on 11/9/2013.

Wed Apr 27, 2011 4:32 pm

Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:59 pm
Posts: 1978
Post Re: Nothing but words
I agree shorter questions and ne that only required a yes or no answer, perhaps when you ask a questions say about a meal show him what you mean that might help.

Irene Selak

Wed Apr 27, 2011 4:35 pm
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Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 8:25 am
Posts: 227
Post Re: Nothing but words
Try using picture cards for things such as the bathroom, meals, dressing, bedtime, brushing teeth, etc. This technique is used with autistic children who have difficulty with verbal communication.

Donna (age 56) caregiver for mother-in-law Margaret (age 88).

Wed Apr 27, 2011 5:23 pm

Joined: Fri Aug 11, 2006 1:46 pm
Posts: 4811
Location: SF Bay Area (Northern CA)
Post Re: Nothing but words
Sadly, we have many caregivers in the local support group who can go an entire day without saying more than a word or two to the care recipients. I think people learn to get by without language.

Wed Apr 27, 2011 6:27 pm

Joined: Sun Oct 21, 2007 4:18 pm
Posts: 835
Location: Acton, MA
Post Re: Nothing but words
Frank seldom talks and seems to understand less. I do have picture cards, our daughter teaches special needs middle school, and made cards for the toilet, bath, brushing teeth, sit, stand, yes, no etc. They haven't helped, he just looks at them and walks away. I try not to start a conversation because he doesn't acknowledge that I'm talking. I do talk with a couple friends, our daughters and my sister each day so I do get to practice. Hope someone has an answer :roll:

Gerry 67, cared for Frank 71, married 49 yrs; dx 2004, passed away October 26, 2011.

Wed Apr 27, 2011 8:34 pm

Joined: Fri Jan 15, 2010 9:33 pm
Posts: 3441
Location: Vermont
Post Re: Nothing but words
When my dad's speech was very slurred, he used the incorrect word(s) for what he was talking about AND his cognition was not good, it was very difficult to understand him. I'd turn the TV off, or the sound off, sit right next to him, keep good eye contact and really concentrate on what he was trying to say. Sometimes I'd figure it out, and often I wouldn't. I'd feel terrible for him when he'd look at me with his pleading eyes like "please figure out what I am saying and take care of what I'm asking". Sometimes it was about how his house was, what was going on in his old neighborhood, what he was going to have for his next meal. Many times when I wouldn't get it right he would get furious, shake his fists at me, smash his hand on the nearest hard object and split the back of his hand open. The worst was when he'd just look at me with these sad eyes. It makes me cry to think about it. I hope some of the suggestions in the postings will be helpful to you. This is one of the harder parts of this disease, the lack of clear communication. Lynn

Lynn, daughter of 89 year old dad dx with possiblity of LBD, CBD, PSP, FTD, ALS, Vascular Dementia, AD, etc., died Nov. 30, 2010 after living in ALF for 18 months.

Wed Apr 27, 2011 9:25 pm

Joined: Tue Dec 29, 2009 2:28 pm
Posts: 464
Location: Minnesota
Post Re: Nothing but words
Stella, this is one of the greatest losses for my mother and one of her earliest. There is one thing I want to caution you about. Don't make the mistake of believing that just because they can't say something, they don't understand what is being said to them. And try to not talk about him in the third person or answer for him. Give him time to try to answer.

I find that keeping my questions easy, using words of no more than two or three syllables, makes it a bit easier. This is not because Mom doesn't understand bigger words. It is because they make the question or statement longer and she loses track of what I'm saying. I do still ask Mom to make some decisions - which outfit does she want to wear (a choice of two) or does she want pudding or fruit - things like that. But instead of asking her to form the words, I hold out the choices to her and ask her to touch the item she wants. If she can't make the choice, she'll just shrug. But I know that she likes still being able to make even simple choices. Also, especially with a LO you've been with for a long time, communication via a look from them is very clear (I get the Mom look alot.) And I let Mom chose the route on walks by pointing the direction she wants me to take her.

When you really think about it, words are only one of many ways in which we communicate. Body language is a biggie and one that dementia doesn't take completely away. Also smiles, frowns, nods and shaken heads. The challenge is to find these ways and to remember always that there is still a strong possibility that your LO understands what you and others around you are saying. Please keep this in mind when he is in earshot.

I'm so proud when Mom gets even a short sentence out and am grateful for even part of one. One of the most precious moments this winter was when Mom took about 15 minutes to say to her pregnant granddaughter "Your parents are going to be grandparents." I will treasure that for a very long time.

Good luck with the development of your new language with your husband. It can be a new adventure and always an accomplishment.


Kate [i](Cared for Mom for years before anyone else noticed the symptoms, but the last year of her life was rough and we needed to place her in an SNF, where she passed in February 2012)[/i]

Wed Apr 27, 2011 11:30 pm

Joined: Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:55 pm
Posts: 355
Post Re: Nothing but words
To help me be more patient with Dad, and I know how frustrating it can be for everyone, I just keep telling myself that he is like a child, and pretend that he is still only learning new words and ways of communicating. I know he understands more than a small child would, but it makes me calmer and more patient, and he sees that I am calm and that helps a lot. I know its not an answer, and it helps me more than him I guess, but it does help the situation a little when I remind myself how I handled my kids trying to talk and communicate their needs. Best of luck, you're doing a great job,

cared for Dad who passed away on January 28th 2013 R.I.P.

Thu Apr 28, 2011 6:34 am
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