listening, registering

One thing that amazes me is how so many people seem to listen to me when I explain dementia, but then act as if they hadn’t head a word. So I can explain to them how asking someone with dementia questions can unsettle the person–you know, the typical, “Aunty, do you recognize me? What is my name?” And they will nod their heads and agree not to ask those sort of questions. And then…

…I take them to my mother and guess what they ask?

(Yes, you got that right. They say: “Aunty, do you recognize me? What is my name?”

I think there is a difference between just hearing as comapred to actually listening and registering. It reminds me of an incident someone (let’s call be B) told me once.

B is involved in a lot of volunteer work. She does volunteer work in villages, and this involves small and long trips to villages. She also gathers other volunteers for volunteer works, and one cousin of B, a young college student, decided to go on such a trip.

Before this cousin went, B explained to her what the work was. But more than that, she explained something that usually shocks city-bred people on their first trip to a village: There are no toilets in the village. People use fields for ‘nature calls.’ Cousin said, cool, I get it.

When the cousin returned from a two day trip, she was furious with B.

“You never told me there are no toilets in the village,” she said.

“I did,” said B. “I did so several times.”

“No, you did not. How could I have forgotten it if you told me!! You know, there are no toilets in the village!!”

Later, B told me, the problem with people is, they don’t listen. You tell them something important, and you tell them repeatedly, but if it is outside their zone of imagination and experience, they don’t extend themselves to really listening.

I do know listening, really listening, is not easy, and I slip on this often enough, because when people are talking, and if the problem seems remote enough, I am not sure I remain attentive enough to fully grasp the import of what was said.

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About Swapna Kishore
I'm a writer, blogger, and resource person for dementia/ caregiving in India, and deeply concerned about dementia care in India. On this blog I share my own caregiving journey, my experiences as a resource person for dementia care, and musings on life, aging, dementia in India, and such sundries. More about me and the work I do for dementia care in this set of pages:

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