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  • Writer's pictureKatya De Luisa

In Touch With The World



Chapter 2-Journey through the Infinite Mind


I’d just finished setting up the workshop in the dining room and sent the volunteers to

recruit residents for the class, most of which were aimlessly milling around or lounging

in chairs after breakfast.


Glancing around the room, I noticed a man with a goatee, wearing a baseball cap sitting on the couch in front of a darkened television. His glasses were dangling precariously from the end of his nose, and he was obviously in a state of panic. "Help! Where?.. My wife…Help, want home…Want to go home!" He would attempt to rise to his feet but lose his balance and fall back onto the sofa. The aides had made repeated attempts to comfort him, to no avail.


It was Frank, the man from the stairs on my first day. He had advanced Alzheimer's, and today was his first time in the facility's respite daycare program.


I knelt in front of him, retrieved his glasses which had fallen on the floor, and positioned myself in his line of vision. I placed my hand on his knee and said, "Hi, Frank; I'm Katya. Can I help you?" He seemed dazed and looked at me through bloodshot eyes rimmed with dark circles. He took off his baseball cap, pointed to his bald head, and said, "Don't work."


I explained several times his wife was at work and would be back to take him home later, but he didn't understand. When I invited him to come to the workshop and be my

partner, his eyes fixated on mine, and he became silent for what seemed an eternity. Finally, adjusting his cap, he said, "Let's go."


After that day, Frank always participated in the weekly picture communication class. Each resident was paired with a volunteer or family member, and they would pick out pictures from the magazine. The companion would do the cutting and paste into a collage form. Frank was often my partner, although I occasionally had him partner with one of the companions to get more socialization. I felt a special rapport with Frank; somehow, we seemed to understand each other. His verbal skills were becoming very limited.


Interestingly, he was continuously attracted to words and phrases in magazines. Still, at

his stage of dementia, it was difficult to imagine that he might actually understand what they meant. I'd ask him if he liked those words, and he would respond, "Seen that, seen that." I assumed that was Frank's way of indicating that he wanted something because when he didn't, he said nothing.


One day while I was holding the magazine for him in the collage class, his eyes stared intently at the upper section of the page. His lips began to move as though he were silently reading. I ran my fingers over the words, asking if he liked them, and he indicated yes.


When I read the words, I almost dropped the magazine. “Sometimes you’re most in touch with the world when you are out of touch.”


It is important to never judge your loved one’s cognitive level by how their outer behavior manifests. Especially when they are losing verbal abilities, we often believe they are out of touch with the world. What if those times you thought they were out of it and unaware, you talked negatively about them to someone in their presence. Or discussed their decline or difficult behavior with someone on the phone. How about when there are visitors, and you never include them in the conversation or discussion with the visitors about their situation as though they weren’t there.


You never know what they can comprehend, so It's important to always treat them with

the same respect and inclusion you would as if they understand everything you are saying, especially in non-verbal stages.

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