Alternative Realities

As a health care practitioner with many years of experience, I think I have a good understanding of most aspects of health and aging.  Though there is always more to learn about the latest drugs, trends and research, often my true education comes from a more obscure source.  This happened recently when I caught a glimpse into the reality someone with a cognitive impairment might experience.  I have worked with many patients with strokes , Alzheimer’s, etc. but this gave me a new perspective. 

My mother has always had an incredible memory for details.  Though a bit slower since an acute illness several years ago, at nearly ninety, she still remembers details from seventy years ago with crystal clarity.  Recently, specific wording has become more difficult for her to find, but she still recalls; the waiter from a restaurant we went to last week, what each of us ate, and  whether we finished eating it or took it home in a “doggy bag”.  My point is that I understand what it is like to be forgetful because I have been forgetful my entire life while my mother had a nearly photographic memory.  What I did not understand until recently though, was what it actually felt like not to remember.

It had been a difficult week for me and I had been sleeping poorly.    I went to bed exhausted and finally fell into a deep, deep sleep.  When I awoke in the morning, I was a bit confused when I opened the blinds to see wet pavement and leaves and debris strewn over the yard.  There was no rain predicted for the night before and I had heard nothing during the night.    “Wasn’t that an awful storm last night?” my husband commented as I poured my coffee.  “What storm?” I questioned.  There couldn’t have been a storm.  I had not heard anything and I was a light sleeper even when wearing earplugs to muffle the sounds of the night.  “It was a terrible storm!  Didn’t you hear the thunder?  It stormed for hours,” he announced.  My husband tends to be dramatic and sometimes exaggerate but there was evidence in the yard and street that there hadbeen a terrible storm.  I felt a bit confused.  This account of the storm was coming from a man who slept through hurricanes and tornadoes while I NEVER missed waking to a storm.  “Where was the dog?” I asked since the dog, who is usually exiled from the bedroom, is allowed in during storms when she becomes quite frightened.  I could not believe I had not even heard the dog!  As the day progressed, I heard other accounts of the stormy night.  I became even more incredulous that I had been totally unaware of the event.  I began to relate my experience to that of my patients with cognitive impairment. 

The impact of not experiencing the same reality as those around me hit me like a bucket of ice water.  This is how my patients felt!  Their reality truly is different than mine or their family’s.  The difficulty of reconciling that in one’s own mind is tremendous.  How difficult and frightening it must be for them to meld their reality with the world around them that presents an alternative reality.  Dealing with Alzheimer’s patients or stroke patients or even simply confused patients has shifted for me.  The insight I gained from that experience will always remind me to try to see, hear and experience the reality that my patient or family member is experiencing no matter how different from my reality it may be.

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422 Responses to “Alternative Realities”

  1. Mark says:

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    ñïàñèáî çà èíôó….

  2. Troy says:

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    ñïñ….

  3. Jimmy says:

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    ñïñ!!…

  4. vernon says:

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    ñïàñèáî çà èíôó….

  5. Dwight says:

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    ñïàñèáî çà èíôó….

  6. Homer says:

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    áëàãîäàðñòâóþ!!…

  7. troy says:

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    ñïàñèáî!!…

  8. Gary says:

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    ñýíêñ çà èíôó….

  9. Floyd says:

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    áëàãîäàðþ….

  10. Jason says:

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    ñïñ çà èíôó!!…

  11. stanley says:

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    áëàãîäàðåí!!…

  12. Vincent says:

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    ñïñ çà èíôó….

  13. Micheal says:

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    ñïàñèáî çà èíôó!!…

  14. jamie says:

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    tnx for info!…

  15. Theodore says:

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    thanks for information….

  16. Perry says:

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    áëàãîäàðþ!…

  17. Chester says:

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    thank you!…

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