Blog 12: Still Intelligent, Still Sociable

It’s a weird thing, this condition called Aphasia.  There is so much loss of brainpower on the one hand yet, on the other, the person remains his intelligent, old self.  Berens tells us, in her Aphasia Guide, that though people with aphasia have “difficulty with many aspects of communication (i.e. naming objects, writing words in a sentence and reading) aphasia does not affect intelligence.”  She goes on to say that “people with aphasia still have thoughts, opinions and emotions, can still solve problems, can still hear and see and can still make decisions” (p 14).

That’s how it was with Bill in 2008.  He was largely innumerate and illiterate and could not read maps and calendars but, with my help, he was still able to function in the world and was still, in many ways, intelligent.  When we were driving out to Camooweal in May 2008, for example, with Bill at the wheel, we turned a sharp corner and were surprised and excited to see a flock of six emus crossing our path.

We were on a deserted, outback road, with nothing but long grass and gum trees on either side.

“Stop!” I cried.  “I want to take a photo!”

“You’ve got to hurry!” Bill was quick to answer.  “We can’t stop here.  Someone might come round!”

This is the photo that I took.  Can you spot the emus?

Blog 012 Image 1

Bill was right, of course.  Though it felt as though we were the only people on the planet, someone certainly might have driven around that corner at speed and collided with us.  Bill’s brain was still clever enough to understand that and to predict that possibility.

On another occasion, Bill needed to lower the height of a table.  He knew that he could not measure but he could see how much the table leg needed to be shortened.  He made himself a block of wood the size of that amount, held it up against the first leg and cut that much off.  Then he repeated the exercise for the other three legs and the table was lowered perfectly.  I was amazed at the way that he did it.  There was no doubt in my mind that there was still intelligence there.

As well, Bill was still sociable and, though he could no longer carry on a decent conversation, he found himself various props that helped him to participate socially.  He would, for example, take guests on a tour of the house.  On the way, he would stop and talk about each of the pictures on our walls.  Or he would open cupboards and create conversation about their contents:  “And there’s this, and there’s this, and there’s this,” he would say, boring poor visitors out of their minds as he pointed to a book or a blanket or some unused vases.  Sometimes, he would just take his friends down on to the pontoon and talk about the view.  On other occasions, he would sit with them and take them through a photo album.

Blog 012 Image 2

No matter what, whenever people would come, or we would visit them, Bill was as welcoming and
sociable as he had always been.

Blog 012 Image 3 Blog 012 Image 4

  1. Carmel Taylor

    Thanks Fay for documenting others can learn from the journey. It’s not what happens to you it’s how you handle it.

    January 27th, 2013 // Reply
  2. Carmel Taylor

    Bill took us on that tour on a “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”!!!

    January 27th, 2013 // Reply
  3. carmel taylor

    Thanks so much Fay for sharing Bills journey. It really makes you realise that your health & the health of those closest to you is what matters most. Carmel & Gerry xo

    January 28th, 2013 // Reply
    • Fay

      Thank you for listening, Carmel and Gerry and for corroborating my claims about Bill’s efforts to stay connected to society. Through it all, he was such a brave man. Keep listening, Carmel. There are 54 BLOGS in all.

      February 8th, 2013 // Reply
  4. Dave

    Brisbane to Camooweal … long enough trip! Must have been exhausting. If I said there were in fact seven emus in the photo would that cause concern?

    There is only six but thought I would check …

    What year was the Christmas photo – possibly 2008 or 2009? Dad still looks very fit and solid.

    January 28th, 2013 // Reply
    • Fay

      Hi David,
      If you look back at my reply to Sonia, you will see that I said to her that now and again I stop and make the effort to count from 100 backwards by sevens. And your sentence should read: “There ARE only six”.
      Yes, I would say 2008 or 2009. But he looked pretty fit right up until 2011.

      February 8th, 2013 // Reply
  5. Juanita Laird

    I , too, did the journey around the house. Bill loved his PNG objects. The photo albums, too, were a form of communication with him

    January 30th, 2013 // Reply
    • Fay

      And I remember you walking down on to the pontoon with him, Juanita. You were both dep in conversation and I asked you afterwards: “How was that exchange of sentences.” And you answered: “Not too bad. I could mostly followwhat he was trying to say.” And that was how it was until well into 2011. You could mostly follow …..

      February 8th, 2013 // Reply
  6. Sonia Hendy

    I think the “house tour” was a highlight of a visit to see Bill. He was trying to communicate so hard and be the gentle host he always had been. It really didn’t matter what the words were, you know what he was trying to do.

    February 4th, 2013 // Reply
    • Fay

      “Gentle’ is a lovely word to describe Bill, Sonia. Thankfully, he had friends and relatives who were “gentle”, too. Bill would probably have retreated into his shell if those “gentle” people had not been there for him, helping his social efforts along.

      February 8th, 2013 // Reply
  7. Dave

    Yes, there ARE indeed only six emus. But I was trying to be cool and trendy and reflect a younger generation who talk in txt speek … and who would have thought my Mum was a teacher!

    February 9th, 2013 // Reply
    • Fay

      I do declare, text speak will be the death of civilization.

      February 13th, 2013 // Reply
  8. Harold and Nola

    We remeber how sociable Bill was whenever we were with you. He always loved people and we believe his Christ-love shone through even brighter as his poor brain deteriorated. We could see it. Somehow, we – you – never really ‘lost’ Bill.

    March 16th, 2013 // Reply
    • Fay

      You’re so right, Nola. That damned disease they call dementia destroyed so much that was Bill, but, in my view, it never got the essence of the man. That was our good luck.

      April 24th, 2013 // Reply
  9. Barry Hishion

    I too was a visitor to the pontoon; a favourite spot In 2006 Bill was then able to relate to me the building of his lovely little boat. That was my good fortune. Should my visit had been much later, the finer details of its building he may not have been able to convey. Great reading Fay.

    April 16th, 2013 // Reply
    • Fay

      After Bill became ill, Barry, the boat sat on the pontoon and slowly rotted. But we’ve had it fixed up and we use it happily, now, as a little run-about. Bill enjoyed your visit in 2006, in no small part because he was able to talk to you, in detail, about that boat.

      April 24th, 2013 // Reply

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

a blog about my dementia journey


© 2012 Sneek
Powered by WordPress, Endless & Sneek