Advocacy, Antipsychotic drugs, NHBPS

how much is lost in translation?

This is one in a series of vignettes based on the Nursing Home Behaviour Problem Scale (NHBPS), which is used to measure agitation in people who live with dementiaThe vignettes, which are fictionalized versions of real events, are told from the point of view and in the voice of a fictional character called Annie, a woman in her mid-eighties who lives with dementia of the Alzheimer’s type in the mid- to later-stages of the disease. Annie resides in a long-term care facility somewhere in Canada. This vignette is called “lost in translation.” The rest of the vignettes are here.

Teepa thin banner

lost in translation

“I’m thirsty,” I say to the young man. “I’d like a cup of tea please.”

“What’s that Annie?” He replies. He puts a plate in front of me. It has three different colours of mashed potatoes on it: one white, one dark brown, and one green.

“I said ‘I’m thirsty, and I’d like a cup of tea please,’” I repeat.

“I can’t make head nor tail of your gobbledygook Annie,” the young man says. Now he’s putting a plate in front of the old lady beside me. Her plate also has white, brown and green mashed potatoes on it. “What does: ‘no water dry, the teabag late came,’ mean Annie?” he says.

What’s he talking about? It doesn’t make sense. His words are all jumbled up and out of order. The people in this place are very strange, it’s like they’re from another planet.

“I want some tea please,” I say again.

“Sorry Annie, I just can’t understand what you want,” the young man says.

Better to keep quiet. I try to sit still, but I feel restless. And I know what happens when I move around or complain – I get it trouble. I don’t want to get in trouble. I feel sad. I feel mad. I wish I could get out of here. I want to go home to my mom. She’ll take care of me. I hope someone will bring me a cup of tea.

“Hi Mom.” It’s the silver-haired girl. I don’t know where she came from, but I’m glad to see her.

“Hi dear,” I say. I like the silver-haired girl.

“I see you’re having lunch Mom. It smells like it might be chicken” she says. “And those might be peas. With mashed potatoes.”

“Chicken,” I say. “Maybe it’s chicken.” It doesn’t look like chicken.

“Are you thirsty, Mom?” The silver-haired girl says.

“Yes,” I say. I don’t tell her I’ve just told the young man, but he didn’t understand me.

“I bet you’d like something to drink eh Mom?”

“Something to drink,” I say.

“How about some tea Mom?” The silver-haired girl smiles. She has pink lipstick on.

“Te te te te te tea party?” I say. I don’t know why I stutter, but sometimes I do.

“Yeah,” the silver-haired girl smiles. Her eyes look at me. They’re blue, and crinkly at the corners. “Tea for two and two for tea.” She’s singing now.

Tea party. “That would be nice,” I say. “Tea party would be nice.”

“Okay Mom, I’ll get you some tea.” The silver-haired girl stands up.

I wish everyone were like her. She’s just like my Mummy.

©2017 Susan Macaulay /

alzheimer annie invites you in

please remain seated for the rest of your life

look who’s talking now


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