social, health, political imagery through the lens of George J Huba PhD © 2012-2019

Posts tagged elders

Last week (June 14, 2017) I received an email from a close friend with a link to an article generated by the North Carolina station of the National Public Radio a month ago. Along with noting that the research process was not what it once was — specifically that I had received a description of a study carried out in India from a psychologist in Israel with a summary of a radio broadcast generated about five miles from my home.

The changes in how we think, process and access information, and communicate change dramatically annually (as well as monthly, weekly, daily even). But is everyone changing how they fit to match our modern world and its information use possibilities?

People of many different income, education, social, and other strata within Indian society took EEGs to study their alpha brain patterns. There were many differences between the way that their brains seemed to work as measured by EEG indicators that could potentially be explained by differences in exposure to different levels and kinds of technologies.

A summary of the work appears here and was written by the University of California, Berkeley, philosopher Alva Noe. Noe discusses how brain wave patterns may have changed as individuals are exposed to the dramatic new information access and processing annually. The original scientific research by Dhanya Parameshwaran and Tara C. Thiagarajan appears here. Noe notes that one of the “problems” in our current conceptions of neurocognitive science is that virtually all of the experimental results have been derived from “WEIRD” brains, that is individuals educated in current technologies within western, industrialized, rich democracies. The Indian results suggest that there are different patterns of “NORMAL” brain waves among individual from other backgrounds.

I find Noe’s ideas to be quite compelling.

Click to open the mind model (aka mind map).

There are many kinds of dementia, but in many types, one huge change is that you lose partially or fully the ability control your facial expression, body posture, and other physical movements that indicate to another person how you feel, how attentive you are, sudden joy, fear, and especially empathy.

Since my diagnosis of FTD (and several years before that), I have heard statements like these from strangers, friends, and family members. Many people think I am angry, disinterested, or not listening to them.

“You never smile.”

“We’re waiting for you not to frown so we can take the selfie.”

“You don’t care what I think, all you do is look at me with a smirk on your face.”

Well, most of the time I am happy and/or neutral although I am sometimes depressed to varying degrees. I am usually interested in what most people are saying. Sometimes I have to break into conversations multiple times to say that I am confused. That confusion is, for me, more likely to indicate that I cannot decode your words because I am losing language skills, not because I was not paying attention to you. I slouch a lot, I often walk looking directly down because I easily trip over over cracks in the pavement and that sometimes leads to falls (I am currently typing using my left thumb on the spacebar because I broke my right thumb in a fall a month ago).

You cannot judge how I am feeling physically or mentally by looking at me unless you are part of my core family and see me very often and sometimes not even then.

That sucks.

Much of how we feel about people is based on their nonverbal gestures and facial expressions. Somebody like me who can barely smile gives people the impression they don’t like what is being said or are annoyed or distracted.

Most people infer negative things from my posture and face and staring that are simply not true.

This is probably a huge factor in how miscommunications often occur among persons with dementia and those they interact with. Even people who interact with me regularly and know my medical problems often misinterpret me.

The following mind model shows some issues in communicating with persons with dementia and possibly misinterpreting what they are thinking and feeling because they look at you with unintended disinterest, never smile, and look distracted. People have often misinterpreted my attempt to smile as smirking.

And if you are a person with dementia, look at yourself in the mirror or in recent photographs and see if you can make some improvements in facial expressions and posture. And if not, when you talking to people, especially friends and family, remind them that you not in complete control of your facial expressions and that sometimes when you think you are smiling or even grinning, the other person just sees a blank face. You can also make a joke out of the situation.

Click on the mind model image below to expand it.

Banks and online merchants use fairly sophisticated algorithms to identify probable cases of financial fraud and then protect themselves from the consequences of lost or stolen credit cards, etc. One of the most prevalent forms of elder abuse is financial. Aging adults are attacked by predators trying to get them to refinance their homes with reverse mortgages at exorbitant rates; make huge gifts for “kindness” from strangers; and one scheme after another. Sadly, much of the financial abuse is perpetrated by family members. And predatory financial scams are often targeted at aging immigrants to the US. Instead of just checking credit card records for fraud so as to protect themselves from liability, banks could use the same types of algorithms to scan withdrawals from savings and brokerage accounts as well as charges to credit cards to determine if they are atypically large for someone in their 80s.  (At least in California) Banks are mandated reporters (to law enforcement) of suspected financial abuse of elders. Wouldn’t it be nice if banks used the algorithms they already use to protect themselves (at the expense of your privacy) to at least protect older individuals (at a loss of the privacy they already gave up when they opened accounts) from the scum who try to separate cognitively impaired or depressed seniors from their lifetime savings? Wouldn’t that be nice …..