Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Coffee-christened Therapy

The speech therapist arrived before noon on Monday.  With her came a structure for whittling away at Richard’s aphasia.  He now has worksheets to challenge him to write, to organize his thoughts and to re-stimulate expressing them.

Since Richard’s return home on last Wednesday, I can see some progress.  Richard gets frustrated that his performance is coming back slowly, at least by his appraisal, but let me relate an example of progress over this past week.

Coffee has been a passion for Richard as long as I have known him. We have developed our own multi-step process to brew the perfect cup.  As part of his homework for the speech therapist he wrote out the steps for making a cup of coffee (I’ll add parenthesis for clarity) as follows:

  1. Open the can (of coffee grounds)
  2. Turn on the water (to boil in the hot pot)
  3. Place the scoops of coffee into the receptacle (a 2-cup Pyrex carafe)
  4. Pour the water on (the grounds)
  5. Place filter on cup (in a Melita cone)
  6. Pour coffee into the filter
  7. Remove filter from the cup
  8. Enjoy the coffee
  9. Clean up

This is really the final paper so to speak on a week of effort.  Let me recap the week’s events, day-by-day.

Thursday – Richard accepted a cup of coffee that I brought him before breakfast.

Friday – Richard asked for his cup of coffee before I had a chance to offer.

Saturday – Richard was in the kitchen before me.  He found his cup and set the water to boil in the hot pot.  Then he looked at the cabinet and threw up his hands in exasperation. He stepped back and watched me complete it.

Sunday – He was in the kitchen before me again.  He got all the equipment onto the counter for making coffee – filter, Melita cone, cup, Pyrex carafe, coffee can, boiling water. He started by putting the grounds in the Pyrex carafe. He stood puzzling for a bit before he became frustrated and told me to finish it.

Monday – He started just like Sunday but stuck with it to the step of pouring the coffee through the filter.  He stood and gazed at the brewing grounds and the dry filter. Finally with a little verbal encouragement he poured the coffee into the filter.  Ah, the look of triumph as he sipped that cup of coffee, that was until he scowled and said the coffee was bitter.  We negotiated and decided I should get a different roast when I shopped. 

Tuesday – I had purchased a different roast, but I had not told Richard where it was in the kitchen.  He got to the kitchen before me, and by the time I arrived he was pouring the hot water on the grounds.  I looked on the counter and was jubilant that he had found the new coffee. Slowly and steadily, he was completing each step without prompting.  We stood there listening to the drip, drip, drip of the coffee.  He removed the filter cone and took a satisfying sip.  Then an odd look came across his face as he said, “It’s still bitter.” After a pause he went on, “Tea.” 

After all these years I never expected him to consider tea as a coffee alternative.  I speculated that his medications may have something to do with his current tastes.  He agreed to give it some time before he jettison coffee from his lifestyle.  Meanwhile, I point out his success in coffee preparation as evidence of his potential for further recovery. 

One small cup of coffee, one giant leap of progress.  

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