“Can You Hear Me Now?” by Carole Mullikan

We are honoured to have an article written by dementia advocate and pioneer, Carole Mullikan. Thank you Carole, for sharing your story, and for living so well since her diagnosis in 1995, by role modelling to us all by focusing on what she can still do, and that for many of us, it is possible.

Can You Hear Me Now?

“Not so long ago a man in spectacles paced everywhere testing his phone in a Verizon commercial.

“Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?”

As a first-year teacher, that was a question I often asked myself when in front of a noisy bunch of teenagers. Over time, I learned how to quiet and focus teenagers in a classroom. Yet sometimes I still needed to ask the very back row,

“Can you hear me now?”

When I began making luncheon presentations in ballrooms at state teachers’ conferences, the question arose again. Sometimes microphones are forgotten. Sometimes they malfunction, necessitating greater lung power. Other times they must be tested and adjusted.

“Can you hear me now?”

At one national conference, the microphone was working just fine, but as I took the podium, I glanced up, seeing the massive, multi-layered crystal chandelier above. Good grief! I thought to myself, what could I possibly have to say that was worthy of such splendor? But being a seasoned speaker, I persisted.

These days, I no longer speak in classrooms or at conferences. Most often I speak to just one or a few individuals. That should seem easy, but having been diagnosed with dementia, “Can you hear me now?” is still an issue. The stigma attached to dementia causes others to listen through a perceptual filter telling them the person with dementia is often confused. What he says may be wrong. She may not have her facts straight. He might be dwelling in the past or experiencing delusions. What a person with dementia says cannot be trusted. Even when I am certain of my facts and speak with authority, I question that they can hear me through the diagnosis of dementia. Too often I fall silent.

Hear me now, please!

Being automatically deprived of my credibility hurts!

Copyright: Carole Mullikan 2017

More about Carole Mulliken: Carole is a DAI member and a member on our recently reinstated DAI Action Group, about to commence moderating a Discussion forum currenty being set up for members. She is also a founding board member of the Dementia Advocacy and Support Network International (DASNI), which was the first international online support group for people of dementia. Unlike DAI, membership was not exclusive to people with dementia.

With a diagnosis of multi infarct dementia, obviously now well over twenty years ago, Carole regards dementia advocacy as a second, unpaid career and herself a veteran of the dementia wars. She lives near Saint Louis, MO, and those of us at DAI salute her for being one of the shining lights who led the way for the rest of us.

Carole worked as an educator, a school counselor, a suicide crisis interventionist, an adjunct professor of composition, an educational consultant for a division of the U.S. Department of Education, and a freelance writer. She wrote and published a monthly online newsletter for an animal shelter and maintained its website. She has published freelance feature articles for print publications and for several websites.  Lisa Genova, Ph.D., author of Still Alice, recognizes DASNI and Carole Mulliken by name as contributing to her own understanding of the lived experience of dementia.