Recently, I had the pleasure of perusing a book that was sent to me by Shadowbox Press. Here is my non-biased, uncompensated review of the interactive book, Fun and Games, based on an experience with one of my patients.
I work with a lady named May. May is in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and she spends her day strolling the halls of the dementia unit of an assisted living facility, buttoned up in a trench coat and carrying her purse. May has places to go.
When I engage May in casual conversation, she gets the first few words of automatic speech correct, “Thank you, honey, you know…” and then her sentence deteriorates into a colorful bowl of tossed word salad. But in watching her speak, following the inflections and intonations of her speech pattern, coupled with her gestures and expressions, it is obvious that May knows exactly what she is trying to say. Usually, if you try to match the emotion of what she is saying, and use your own gestures and automatic speech, May can usually be engaged in a form of dialogue that connects her to her environment. In her own language, May is able to socialize with others around her.
There are times, however, when people don’t take the time to try to understand her, or cannot figure out what she is trying to say. They don’t try to speak her language. This can cause May to become anxious and agitated. When May gets frustrated, she paces more, rambles more, wrings her hands, and is hard to engage.
Such was her state of mind when I met her in the hall one afternoon.
I motioned for May to follow me into her room. I sat on her bed while May figeted with things on her dresser, mumbling to herself. I was finally able to get her to sit next to me when I pulled out this book and said, “Hey May, look at this!”
May sat in her chair and carefully turned each page. She pointed at each photo, tapping on it in a gesture of recognition. Using the simple cue “Tell me,” May would begin talking in fairly coherent sentences. Because we both had the advantage of context, May was able to share some life stories. Despite errors in word choice and losing her train of thought at times, May was able to communicate with me. My follow up questions, within the context of the photos, helped May piece together her memories into words that I could understand. She recognized the understanding on my face, and was reassured by my nods and smiles.
There are lots of common objects and familiar photos that can generate productive “conversation” with memory-impaired individuals. But it was clear to me that May really enjoyed this particular book. Her agitation lessened and she appeared calmer and more content. She successfully connected to the world.
Perhaps a few more ethnically diverse photos would be more appropriate for the demographics of my geographic location, but I would still recommend this book to caregivers as a tool to engage someone with dementia. Thanks for sharing, Shadowbox.