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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Communication Skills September 1, 2013

It takes two people at least for communication to happen- by touch, by gesture, by eye roll or by speech. My skills have developed during my lifetime to listen keenly and to read the faces of those I know well and to recognize often the mood they are in when I wish to communicate with them, either on Skype, on the telephone or in person. I find it hard to know the mood or feelings of those with whom I email or text.

My skills have been sharpened during the past few years when I visit my husband at the memory care center.I kind of know whether he is sleeping, dozing or merely shutting out external stimuli by closing his eyes, which guides my decision to let him be or to gently awaken him so he knows I am there.
When he greets me I can sort of tell whether he really knows me that day or just knows I am a familiar person   in his life. 
Sometimes he will follow an aide and leave me sitting there. Yesterday, however, he was sitting in his favorite chair just outside his room door, watching the action around him. When I approached his field of vision, he looked up, put out both hands and said "Hallelu--I'm glad you're here."
I pulled up a chair so I sat across from him and held his hands, pleased. This was going to be a good day. My husband really looked at me. I was wearing a light green t-shirt and shorts. He held out his cupped hands and said, "You really have a big body." He looked at my knees and his and attempted to pull his shorts longer, then he looked up at me again and said, "I think you should leave."

My husband thought my clothing was too revealing. Although he liked looking at me, he did not like me to be out and about dressed as I was. This communication was so strong-- and so in character for him--it felt as if he were well again! He succeeded in making me feel both appreciated and uncomfortable.

I stood up and so did he. We walked for a while as the moment passed. We played balloon toss for almost fifteen minutes until he said, "Enough." The dinner trolley arrived. We watched as the staff plated the food and gathered the others to the tables. We chose his plate, he sat down, picked up his fork and became unaware of my presence as he ate and I left.

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