Aug 11, 2011

The shock term “The Long Goodbye”

The shock term “The Long Goodbye” is one of many that a speaker can use to capture the attention of the listener. Unfortunately it comes at a price.

By Mike Donohue

Mike Donohue
I was in the office of the surgeon who operated on my broken hip replacement last week. Appropriately I asked my wife to give the history of the difficulties I was having 2 ½ years after surgery. Appropriately the surgeon directed the rest of the conversation to my wife leaving me invisible in the room.

I needed my wife to talk so the history wouldn’t take all afternoon as I stammered and looked for words. I needed her to talk so nothing would be overlooked. I needed her to talk so I could take the time to listen to the conversation and have the time to understand it.

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With my form of the disease I have sufficient cognition to understand what was being said. But I need time to hear it, digest it, and translate the words into information.

Once I could understand it all as it was said. This is no longer instantaneous like that with me. I suffer a time lag while I go through the process of explaining to my brain what the words were that I heard. My brain then tells me what all of the words of a segment of communication mean.

My cognition is still pretty good. I not only knew I was in this process, I also knew how isolated from reality I had become letting my isolation go on. Having no other choice I nonetheless let it go on.

The shock term “The Long Goodbye” is one of many that a speaker can use to capture the attention of the listener. Unfortunately it comes at a price.

It allows the listener in response to the shocking news to see the object of the discussion, the person afflicted with dementia, in the worst possible light.

Too often all of us dealing with this disease, afflicted, affected, more distant, and those not involved, accept the use of descriptive shock words to get the attention and favorable response from the listener. The expediency of it is excused by using shock the byproduct of which allows the formation of stereotypes about the disease. That’s ok if there is good purpose in it.

This is such a mistake because it de-humanizes us so.

With this disease, with the cognitive attributes that remain, I run at two speeds. Abject, sad and depressed by what has happened to me because of the limitations I deal with every hour of every day. The other speed is that of being engaged. I have the disease and rather than sitting idly by feeling sorry for myself I am committed to doing something useful with my disease.

Writing is a big part of doing this.

Thank you Monica Heltemes for your insight and sensitivity of your article “The Long Goodbye.”

Editor Note: The above was originally entered by Mike as a comment under Monica's article.

Mike Donohue is a Husband, Father, Grandfather and good friend to some wonderful people. He likes to read, to write and to try and figure it all out. His life has had its ups and downs. It has given him insight into where he has been, why he was there, and where it is leading to. The most profound events in my life were recovery from Alcoholism in 1974 and diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease in 2006. The first was my Watershed, the second my Epiphany. Mike writes at My Alzheimer's Afterthoughts!

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Original content Mike Donohue, the Alzheimer's Reading Room