Thursday, March 4, 2010

Silent Talking

My husband recently said to me, “Do you know what you don’t do when you are taking care of mother?” I said, “What’s that?”, He said, “You don’t talk to mother very much, and I always talk to her. I said, “I know that but realize that you have always been a talker, my family did not talk to each other, and mother and I did not talk to each other.”
Unfortunately some of us grew up that way, not being able to communicate to a parent, sibling or spouse and often our kids as well.

I was ‘forced’ into talking by my husband who insisted I communicate, and secondly by being pushed into the world of retail where I spent the next 20 years! I kind of had to learn to talk to people! But when it came to family members, specifically the immediate family, talking was still minimal to none.

I speak few words to mom in the normal everyday process of taking care of her, mostly those which need to be spoken. But every once in awhile, I will think of something funny…get my face up close, look in her blue eyes and wait for the twinkle and the slight upturn of her mouth as the deep trenches of her face relax in that ever so slight acknowledgement of the haha I had just made.

I can’t talk just to be talking, just because that is what I am supposed to be doing, I can’t force it. I want what I say to count for something, make a difference however brief, in mom’s day.

I have a book, Daily Comforts for Caregivers by Pat Samples. It was given to me by Senior Services here in town. An entry in the book talks about a caregiver talking to the one she cares for or the many instances of not talking at all. I would like to offer this passage from Pat Samples book.

“My words do make a difference at times, but there are other times for silence. If my words are not working, it may be best to stop using them. Just being with my loved one is enough. My silent presence is the gift I give. No words are necessary. What is created in the silence is room for our two souls to rest together and contemplate. We have a sacred time to be in each other’s presence without expectation. If there is anything to communicate, love is the language spoken.” (Sample, 1999)

This entry in Pat’s book helped to ease the guilt I have felt because I do not know how to talk to mom and never had. Now I wish I could do more, but perhaps what I do is enough, speaking to her silently in the language of love.

Sample, P. (1999). Silence together. Daily Comforts for Caregivers. P. (81) Fairview Press, Mn. MN


  1. Great article! It's so important for all of us to remember we are all different personalities - each with special gifts. I know I often nag at myself for the things I don't do. We have to remember the things we DO do as well. Great words of encouragement for all of us care givers. Thank you :)

  2. God made each of us different, and it would be so boring if we were all alike.
    People who talk all the time, wear me out.....
    I suppose we're closer to the silent type, but like you, with an abundance of love and caring!

  3. This is a lovely passage Donna. I hope it takes any guilt away. You should feel glad that you can do what you do but never guilt for what you can't.
    It is common for carers to feel guilt for so many reasons; I feel it when I go somewhere on my own. I enjoy time on my own but then feel guilty for enjoying it. We can't win can we?

  4. I dont talk much myself. I dont realize how quiet I am until we get a visit and mom starts talking away like she is starved for conversation. I will make an effort to talk to her. She likes it.

  5. "Love is the language spoken..." oh I love this. Unlike you, I am actually quite a talker--but not when I'm taking care of my mother's needs. For example, when I'm bathing her I don't find it easy to keep a flow of chatter going. I've felt guilty about this, and your entry today helped me. Thank you so much!

  6. Thanks everyone for your comments. For so long I have had that guilt that I didn't have conversation with mom all the time, but we have never done that together. Just brief talking if at all, so to try and make myself do or be something I have never been with her, is near impossible. But until my husband made that comment to me, I didn't address it, and now in doing so, I am eliminating that guilt, and just being me, the best me I can as I care for her.

  7. Thanks for your comments on my blog Donna-
    think you may have just motivated me to do early morning walking. I live 100 yards from the beach and NEVER go down there. If I am up early I just sit in front of the TV or my laptop. Thanks for the idea will report back. You go for it too early mornings are quiet and peaceful in our crazy lives xx

  8. the beach that is great, I live about 5 mins from Lake Michigan. It is a beautiful walk down mainstreet past old huge homes and with the lake on the right.

  9. Before I came to care for Mom 8 years ago, I lived in a talkative community. It took an hour to get out of the post office cause I'd run into someone an pick up from our last conversation. And these were bright people, musicians, physicists, writers, artists. Dang, I miss that.

    I don't think I've had a real conversation with Mom in 8 years. I'm lucky to get a yes/no answer from her, and she's impossible at following a choice, just like in "Rain Man."

    I decided to use our pets to generate conversation. I put words in their mouths, make them tell jokes. I made the cage of parakeets the house scapegoat. Four cats, four parakeets and once also a guinea pig. Now we feed squirrels out the back door, and they have a lot to say. Mom has only, "Here's some peanuts for you, honey."

    I don't fool myself that silence is Presence with a capital P. Being present is important, as in showing up and not leaving. Socialization is also important. Mom is much more outgoing with strangers, throwing kisses even, than she is with me.

  10. Even before the dementia really took hold, mom was not much of a communicator, especially with her kids. We grew up in silence, and we seem to be ending in silence, with her anyhow. I spent years being with the public, so I learned to talk, and talk a lot! Now, as her caregiver, I was thrown back to the era of silence again. However when I am with people I become quite non-stop talking, which tends to embarass or frustrate me, because I don't want to monopolize the conversation, but it just all comes flooding out of me when I have someone to listen and talk with! To many quiet alone hours these last 4 years.

  11. Four years - eight years! I am only about a year and a half into caregiving. You ladies are saints! My MIL doesn't speak except to repeat other people or the tv. She and I were never great conversationists either. And, I certainly never sang with her as I would have been too self conscious of my abilities. However, now I sing "Amazing Grace" and other old hymns and she will join in or finish a line. Singing is my way of communicating with her now.