Individuals living with dementia commonly experience a loss of language skills. Aphasia causes difficulty not only with expressive language, but as well receptive language.
As dementia progresses, the ability to find words, complete thoughts or express wishes, needs, and desires is impacted. This form of communication is called expressive language: "Think what we express"
The comprehension or understanding of words also becomes difficult when receptive language skills have been affected. To understand receptive language: "Think what we receive or how we interpret language"
Individuals with aphasia struggle with word finding issues, and may create new words to replace forgotten language. Messaging can become quite repetitive, this behaviour is called perseveration.
Words spoken collectively may not create a complete thought or occur in a logical sequence. Sometimes there is a reversion to a first language.
In the early to middle stages of dementia, individuals may have difficulty recognizing the names of items that are commonly used in daily activities. Families at times mistaken this for a visual disturbance and may book an appointment with an optometrist. When there is no change in visual acuity, there is the sudden realization that the difficulty rests with the association between the name of the object and the item itself.
During my presentations, to support the understanding of this concept, I show care partners a “mystery” object and ask them to identify it. It is interesting to listen to comments as the item is passed between participants and there is a concentrated effort to guess the identity or use.
Comments that are often expressed:
This is frustrating!
I can’t imagine what it is.
Can you give us a hint? etc.
As the last person wagers a guess, I use this opportunity to provide the audience with a food for thought question:
“So now you have experienced the frustration of not being able to identify what appears to be a simple object, can you imagine how it must be to cope with this problem on a daily basis?”
Suddenly there is a collective “aha” moment.
Care partners begin to acknowledge that at times they experience a level of frustration when their loved ones living with dementia are unable to follow simple instructions when asked to retrieve an object. However, when placed in a similar circumstance where there was a lack of recognition or the ability to identify a simple item, a new perspective is gained.
Sometimes insight provides the greatest level of hindsight and the highest promise of foresight.
(If you would like to wager a guess as to the use of the item in the photo please send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be happy to unravel the mystery.)