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By December 6, 2022Culture, Longevity

Here’s an entertaining exercise for anyone who regularly visits an individual with cognitive impairment. Particularly for those frustrated by the monotony of responding to the same questions every 15-30 seconds.

The tedium of the continuously looping conversation begins with the individual asking a perfectly fine question; one that you answer directly. Then a fraction of a minute later the individual repeats the same question. This is your opportunity to become an actor, to flip the script by offering multiple alternate takes.

With each successive delivery — as any good actor does — challenge yourself to express things differently. Put a spin on your responses, embellish them a bit. All the while, know that you’ll only be held accountable for a brief moment — until the same question prompts the next call for “action.”

Consider each performative re-fresh a healthy diversion — for the individual with impaired memory and for you. The role-playing exercise could go something like this:

SETUP: Tell me, what’s going on in the world … and with you?

TAKE 1: Well, let’s see. The Covid pandemic is no longer the top story. Russia invaded Ukraine. Also, we just held our midterm elections. … All is good with me.


SETUP: Tell me, what’s going on in the world … and with you?

TAKE 2: Hmm, the pandemic is under control, inflation is not. Tyrants around the world are on the warpath, especially Putin. Even our democracy is under attack — from within. … Me? Well, I was a bitcoin billionaire for a minute. So, yeah …


SETUP: Tell me, what’s going on in the world … and with you?

TAKE 3: Mostly, it’s good. Pandemic deaths are down except among anti-vaxxers. Russian is threatening world domination, so nyet … but da, your fluency in Russian may come in handy. Trump and your grand-old Republican party are now the “American First Union,” so that’s “AFU.” … As for me, I won another cage fighting match. I’m doing well.


SETUP: Tell me, what’s going on in the world … and with you?

TAKE 4 [REPEAT 1]: Well, Covid is pretty much under control; no thanks to the anti-vaxxers. Russia invaded Ukraine but Ukraine is holding its own. We just held the midterm elections; we’ll see if democracy or tyranny prevails. … But I’m doing well.

Such comic relief, however farcical, is not intended to make light of dementia. To the contrary, this is a form of method acting to engage with individuals living with memory loss. Besides, the connection and time together are more important than what is said.

Moreover, the interaction shows you appreciate that the individual is inquisitive and interested. Curiosity should be celebrated in this age of self-obsessed monologists. Asking and answering questions (over and over) may be tiresome, but it is the essence of the all-but-lost art of conversation.

 Photo credit, the award-winning TV series “Barry.”

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