This past Tuesday was one of Boo's wonderfully good days. For several months I've tried to get Boo's hair cut. On three separate occasions we made it into the hair salon, got him ready to have his hair cut...and he panicked. The last of those times he was so upset that it took two friends and myself to lead/carry/wrangle him back to the car before he could calm down. Tuesday, we tried again. Boo had never been to this hair salon and I was prepared for all kinds of trouble. Instead, he walked in, sat down, allowed me to tell the stylist how I wanted his hair cut and then shocked us all by answering questions she asked him and, most surprising, by initiating a conversation with her.
More often, Boo's days are littered with fears, with difficulty expressing himself, with confusion and disorientation and uncertainty. Usually at some point every day, Boo simply cannot find the words he needs. For a man who'd always had a rich and varied vocabulary and who loved to have deep conversations with friends about anything and everything, this is a hard pill to swallow. Immediately after his third stroke, he began falling asleep in the middle of a conversation when he was at a loss for words. I suppose the only way he could deal with this frustration was to completely block it out. To cope now, a couple of years after his last stroke, he just throws his hands up in the air. Boo still follows the conversation and will sometimes vigorously nod or shake his head, but seldom tries to speak again.
One of our blessings is Boo's attitude. He's almost always positive and happy. That, more than anything, helps lessen the impact of uncomfortable situations. When he couldn't find our bedroom last night, Boo announced that he wanted a new cane, one with a map to the bedroom. But until we got one, could I please show him where his bed had moved?
Another coping strategy Boo uses is talking to his cat, Boudreaux. When he's confused, he'll call his cat and proceed to tell Boudreaux all that's going through his mind. Maybe it's less of a strain to talk to a very accepting cat who thinks you're wonderful no matter what. Those conversations with Boudreaux give me quite a lot of insight into what's bothering him. At times, I can explain whatever is confusing him. Usually I work to change whatever's bothering him and assure him that I'm trying to make things easier for him.
One of our most effective weapons in handling Boo's discomfort is a routine and preparation for times when we have to vary his routine. For instance, if Boo has a doctor's appointment, I begin a week in advance and tell him about that appointment, that we'll leave home right after breakfast and probably return just before lunch. Each day I'll remind him of this expected change and add a little more. Perhaps I'll remind him that one of the nurses has a dog named Boudreaux (the same name as his cat) or that I'll have some photos that he can show the staff (that's generally a good way to get him to begin to talk to the nurses or the doctor.) Often after several days of reminding Boo, he'll begin to remind me to pack his photos or ask what we're eating for lunch when we return.
Although Boo is limited by the effects of stroke related dementia, we have learned ways to help him cope...at least some of the time. Other times we just rejoice in the good times and store up memories to carry us through.
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