Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Fishing Net and the Wiffle Ball

A couple people wondered if my new job working with people with Alzheimer's might be like working with toddlers.

Before I started, I wasn't sure how to respond: 
I didn't think it would be, and I also hoped it wouldn't be since I've never been particularly interested in toddlers.

After one week, I can report that they are profoundly different. 

One of the first activities I led was making pumpkin cookies from scratch with the residents. I suppose making the cookies was somewhat like it would be with toddlers––lots of me shrieking, "No! Don't put that spoon back in the bowl" because the person who was supposed to be stirring the batter had instead started to eat it. 

But on the other hand, one of the most silent women quietly and competently used two spoons to form the cookies––one spoon to scoop up a ball of batter, and the back of the other spoon to push it onto the cookie sheet. 

Though only four people had agreed to come help make the cookies, once they were out of the oven, smelling of cinnamon and nutmet,  six other people instantly materialized. 
I felt like the Little Red Hen, except instead of refusing to share with the same people who wouldn't help bake, we all sat at a table drinking tea and eating the cookies. It was nice.

Out of the blue, one woman said, "My husband died."

The woman next to her looked stricken. "Oh," she replied, "that's like . . . [ pause ] That's like . . . cutting off your [ pause, search for word ] . . . hand."

So, no. Not like toddlers. 

I don't know about the neurology, but I picture toddler brains as fishing nets, trawling for any and all information and hauling it up to be safely stored.

And the brain of someone with Alzheimer's is, as a character on Boston Legal says, like a wiffle ball. There are disconcerting gaps in it, but some of the material is still connected. 

Ah-ha. Here, yes, I found a chart. Toddler's brains---they're voracious. We start trawling before we're even born.


Zhoen said...

Naw, I have trouble with toddlers. I like adults whose brains are gone to cheese. The intelligence is still there, as is the wisdom, only the coherence is lost, as well as most of the puzzle. The muscle memory can remain, or some other skill, untouched, still waiting.

Fresca said...

Me too--give me the Swiss-cheesey-brained adults whose aging has created complex and nutty flavors. :)