Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt


How to Find Words When Words Won’t Work?

posted by mpratt

Pamela Lazor, Chaplain
Photo courtesy of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

How can you communicate with someone whose mind and personality have changed so much that you do not recognize them any longer?

How do you find the words? Or, are words necessary?

Pamela Lazor is a Chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. An ordained Presbyterian minister, she is skilled in pastoral care for patients who are treated at the hospital, and she also serves caregivers and trains new chaplains.  But beyond her credentials and training, Pam’s personal experience has given her a particular skill: understanding how difficult it can be to communicate with someone with dementia – and yet how important it is to be present and try.

“The first exposure I had to dementia was my grandmother, whom I was very close to,” Pam told me during a conversation I had with her at Cedars-Sinai. “At that point, they just called it ‘dementia.’ I’m originally from South Africa, and I wasn’t in daily contact with her. But the last time I really saw her, I spent a few days with her.”

“On the one hand,” Pam explains, “the visit was gruelling. She kept asking the same question over and over again. But, then, she spoke of things I’d never heard before, stories of her childhood that I’d never known. It was a part of her I’d never met before. I feel like I have this piece of her that nobody else knew. It opened a different door.”

“There’s a saying, ‘If you’ve seen one case of Alzheimer’s disease, you’ve seen one case of Alzheimer’s disease,'” says Pam. “Each family experience of it is so different. But having experienced it with my grandmother, I understand some of the heartache.She was such a strongwilled woman, and she couldn’t be that anymore. I felt like I had lost her before I had really lost her.”

Communicating with someone with Alzheimer’s can also be a challenge when they are newly diagnosed. On the one hand, they may still have some cognitive function, still a part of who they have been, but on the other hand, the disease process is taking away memories and other abilities.

Sometimes, loved ones of those newly diagnosed might be hesitant to speak openly about the disease and how it is affecting him or her. Or, they might think that the diagnosis means that, suddenly, the person with Alzheimer’s is incapable of thinking at all for him- or herself. But, in the early stages of the disease, it can be possible for someone with Alzheimer’s to be able to take part in decisions such as legal issues, care concerns, and other important aspects of the disease course.

“I think of one person, a very intelligent woman,” says Pam. “Just listening helped. It was important to provide enough space for her to talk about what she was really afraid of. Being able to slowly feel not alone in our fears helps us look at some solutions, what can make us feel more safe and secure.”

When words fail, when it becomes agonizingly difficult to reach a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, music can be powerful.

Spritually, Pam says,  “One of the things I’ve found helpful is how much they can remember from hymns when they cannot remember anything else. I used to work in a geriatric psych unit. Sometimes, patients who had stopped speaking would sing, or at least move to music. Some would start staring at me, as if a light went on. There was some connection there. With family members, when it is so hard to communicate, think of what used to be your parent’s favorite hymns or songs.”

Although Alzheimer’s disease takes away the person they used to be, Pam gently reminds us that God’s love never leaves them – or us.

“Does God know who they are? If they’re not really here anymore, does God remember?” Pam says. “Yes. God never forgets who we are, even if we forget who we are. Can we trust our loved one’s soul to God. Yes. No matter where we go, we can never be separated from God’s love.”

Comfort, to be sure, and profound peace, especially when words are not enough.

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

 



Advertisement
Comments Post the First Comment »
post a comment

Comments are closed.



Previous Posts

TLC Tuesday: Thaw Out!
For many people, this winter has been brutal. Snow, ice, and, especially, frigid temperatures. Many people have been without power, help to clear mountains of snow, and low on food and other supplies. As we think about spring, we think about warmth - inside and out. And one of the ways we can sta

posted 9:56:52pm Mar. 03, 2015 | read full post »

Food for Thought: What You Hear in Silence
We can learn much, when we cultivate silence. It might seem counter-intuitive; our learning usually takes the form of words or pictures or sounds, tangible things that have size, depth, tone, and space. But beyond all of those things that we can feel is something more profound - it is what you he

posted 9:50:56pm Mar. 02, 2015 | read full post »

A Praying Spirit: Thank You, God!
What if all of your prayers today were of thanksgiving and appreciation? What if, instead of a laundry list of petitions or a few moments spent in distracted longing for relief, w

posted 9:44:21pm Feb. 28, 2015 | read full post »

Chronic Illness and Pain: Letting Your Guard Down
I've had to increase the dosage of the immunosuppressive drug I'm taking for my lupus and anti-retinal antibodies. This makes me even more susceptible to infections - at a time when the flu season is just kicking into high gear! About now, too, I'm getting very weary of fending off potential infe

posted 9:35:17pm Feb. 26, 2015 | read full post »

TLC Tuesday: Award Yourself!
Here in Southern California, the awards season is winding down. For the past few months, a crescendo of award ceremonies, large and small, has built up to last  Sunday night's fe

posted 9:24:25pm Feb. 24, 2015 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.