Demented Conversation


I took an online drawing course a couple days ago with some interesting doodling techniques. While I was sketching today, a signal seemed to emerge out of the noise which made me think of the morning’s visit with my dad who’s got dementia. That led me to draw this…

The conversation thread with a dementia sufferer.
The conversation thread with a dementia sufferer.

This is how I envision thoughts working in his mind. The brownish red is his desire to be with his family. He doesn’t understand why he’s not with us all the time. It’s all he wants. That thought’s strong and even when it quiets down for a bit, it’s always there and its pulse is strong.

The green is his unfamiliarity with the scenario in front of him. He doesn’t recognize faces all the time. My kids have grown and he remembers them younger. He’s unsure of who my wife is despite feeling that he should know who she should be. He’s also not clear on what city he’s in and where people live in it. His grasp of time and whether we all live together or in separate places is elusive. All of these are important but vary in intensity. They also tend to stack up and magnify the brownish red cycle.

Lastly, there’s that little fluctuation of orange. His brain somehow knows how things should be. He should have a car. He’s used to working out. He senses that he used to be someone different than he is now. That’s faint and unsure where, years ago, it was a strong and steady output.

I drew all of this in murky colors. It’s not a happy oscilloscope and I didn’t try to picture it as such. It’s very difficult to have conversations like this because they contradict how I’d like to relate with him. The brownish red overpowers everything else. He’s so upset with not being with his family that this is all he talks about when he’s actually with us. I’d love to be able to steer him to what we’re doing but that gets drowned out. And, of course, each cycle repeats itself over and over as he gets confused.

I’ve got this hidden hope that one day we’ll have a talk which will be like me making that drawing. Where the jumbled mess of thoughts and history forms a rational pattern – even if it’s only for a moment. That orange signal could pulse strong again and the lights would go on one last time.

Hope for a clear signal.
Hope for a clear signal.
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5 thoughts on “Demented Conversation

  1. I like the way you create images of the emotional and conversational flows. It’s so difficult to navigate this relationship day in and day out and you’re rising to the challenge, Eric, always providing the adult care and love that he needs. Hats off. xo Naomi

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