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When 93% of the Message is Lost

The importance of understanding 100% of the message.

· communication,Dementia,improv

Anna enjoys her quiet and contemplative time. Coming from a family of 7 siblings as well as attempting to keep the peace among her own two children in her youth, she now enjoys quiet time, often doing nothing but getting lost in her own thoughts.

One afternoon a caregiver handed Anna a ball of yarn and a pair of knitting needles. “I guess you want me to do this, huh?” asked Anna in a sarcastic tone.

“Well, I just thought you would want to keep busy,” the caregiver responded.

A few moments later Anna asked, “Why do we have to be busy all the time?”

Picking up the message in Anna’s tone, the caregiver said, “You know what, we don’t have to be busy at all. In fact, if you want to throw that ball of yarn across the room, you go right ahead.”

With a belly laugh, Anna set the yarn to the side, took a deep breath and leaned her head back in her recliner. After contemplating she turned her head to the caregiver and said, “Many of my caregivers, and even my family, want to keep me busy. They often turn on the T.V. thinking I would enjoy it. Usually, when the T.V. is on, I don’t even see it.”

Just then Anna’s daughter piped in. She had been coming down the stairs to see what all the laughter was about. “Mom,” she began, “you may not be able to see the T.V. but you can certainly hear it, can’t you?”

The caregiver knew immediately that the message was not clearly conveyed to the daughter, for she had missed Anna’s telling body language and sarcastic tone. The caregiver addressed Anna again, this time loud enough for the daughter to overhear, “So what you are saying is that T.V. is not entertaining to you? It is not an enjoyable pastime?”

“Exactly,” Anna replied. “I don’t need to be kept busy. When I decide to do something, it is because it has meaning and purpose, not just to pass the time.”

“Gotcha,” the caregiver replied, looking over at the daughter with a smile, in hopes that she received this message loud and clear.

We are missing the mark by relying on only 7% of the message of anyone we talk to! 93% of the message is communicated through tone of voice and body language. Body Language makes up 55% of that message! Persons living with dementia become hyper-fluent in body language and we need to make a commitment to understanding these little but highly important expressions of communication!

~ Tami & Cathy

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