One day Miss Cathy was trying (unsuccessfully) to perform some ‘everyday’ task so I went over to help and to talk about her mounting frustrations.
I suggested that instead of getting all Meta and complicating what (is usually) an easy problem to solve that she (first) calm down, take a breath and use “common sense”.
“Thanks the problem”, she lamented.
“I haven’t got any.”
“My parents were illiterate and they never taught us anything. They never took the time to explain anything to us. That’s why I could never put two and two together.”
I could hear the contempt in her voice, for opportunities missed and a childhood best forgotten. Unfortunately her dementia (for now) only affects her short-term memory, leaving old hurts and memories very much intact.
But, before she could embark on the oft-told tale of her upbringing (one that I’d heard and knew all too well) I reeled that boat back to shore and refocused the conversation on the “here and now” before she set sail on those troubled waters.
“Common sense”, I said, “is a way of saying that there is a certain amount of knowledge that most people take for granted that we all share…’common’….meaning ‘everyone’…and ‘sense’ …meaning ‘things’ that we all probably know”.
“It’s not about intelligence or ‘book’ knowledge and what you’ve learned so much as it’s about trusting your instincts to tell you what to do.”
I told her that Alzheimer’s had nothing to do with her parents; what “Mama did” and “Daddy didn’t” doesn’t matter a whole helluva lot anymore.
She listened (she usually listens) and this is where I have to admit that she’s a pretty good listener (which is not to be confused with comprehending).
As soon as I finished talking I realized that what I was asking of her was probably unfair.
What might ‘make sense’ and ‘sound reasonable’ to me (or anyone else without Alzheimer’s) is quite different from what a loved one with the disease ‘hears’ or comprehends.
I was asking a person with diminished reasoning and cognitive issues to ‘think’ differently.
So, in the end, I realized after talking to her that it’s probably best if I’m the one to change-my expectations if not my approach.