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Memory Health: Alzheimer's Support Group
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Understanding Conversations

I’ve come to a realization of late concerning conversations that I’m involved in. I’ve known for some time that I’m becoming increasingly unable to follow and understand any but the simplest of conversations but I had not analyzed the path those conversations most often take. It was not until I was in the middle of my latest round of neuropsych testing that the actual process of the conversation hit me. It goes something like this.

The person I’m speaking with starts their sentence and I’ll do my very best to follow each and every word. But soon I realize that I am watching each word be pushed off the edge of a cliff as each new word is spoken. It is much like the old Price is Right game where there are a bunch of numbers in a line and a player has to push the numbers until the correct price shows up and the excess numbers fall off the edge as they are pushed. In my mind, I see the words already spoken falling off the edge of the cliff as the excess numbers do when they are pushed by the contestant. As they fall off they are lost to me forever, both in context and meaning. By the time the new words are spoken I have no way of connecting them to those that are in the abyss.

To those who are speaking to me and are unaware of my limitations or are not around me much, it seems as though I’m just not paying attention or that I am apathetic to what they are saying. This is far from the truth. I am struggling with all that is in me to keep up with the conversation. It is just not something I’m capable of anymore.

In the same vein, it is becoming very difficult for me to carry on a an intelligent conversation for much the same reason. When I’m communicating with my family as to what is going on with me or my condition, it is much easier for me to do so in writing. I am able to take my time, formulate my thoughts, and put them in somewhat of a coherent manner. I have never been what you might call a true conversationalist but I am almost becoming reclusive at this point.

Often, I will be found sitting in my recliner, tv going, iPad in my hand, and something else in my lap. I’m often asked why in the hell I've got all of this going on at the same time. How can I keep up with it all. The simple answer is, I can’t. The reason it’s all there is much the same as my conversations. When I’m watching tv I soon lose all track of the plot, of who did what to whom, or for that matter, who each person is supposed to represent. Rather than sit in frustration and stare at the screen in confusion, I move on to my iPad until the confusion sets in in that medium as well. Then I move on to whatever is in my lap then back to the tv , then the iPad, then....you get the idea. It’s a gambit to fight off the inevitable frustration, agrivation and boredom. At no time am I deeply involved in any one thing and can easily divert my attention when my understanding wanes.

If your LO looks at you blankly or gives you a lot of “OK’s” as you are describing something, remember, perhaps they are in the same boat. Cut them a bit of slack. Cut yourself a bit of slack.


5 Replies

Hi Randy,

Something to consider: speech-to-text apps.

It won't solve the problem of following multiple conversations, but in one-to-one conversations it might be useful.

Take a look in the Apple and Google app stores; there are several. One I'm aware of (but have not yet tried) is Speakprose -- in the Apple store.

All the best.

1 like

Actually Speakprose is more text-to-speech app, but might still be useful for communicating with caregivers in a "down state".


Hi Christian, thanks for the reply. I don’t quite understand how you’re suggesting the app be used. Are you saying that the caregiver could use the app to convert their conversation to text so that I could more easily follow?


Hi Randy,

Yes, that's the concept - both ways. Convert speech to text, and convert text to speech. Choose the option that makes the most sense for your situation.

There are several speech-to-text apps out there; I haven't yet looked in detail with any of them.


Poppy and Christian; I have done a lot of thinking about this very problem. I don't have a finished solution and I don't know that there even is one. However to help with conversations I have taken a two-pronged approach:

1. For the the other person says. I have taken to using Speech-To-Text software on my phone to "listen" to the whole conversation when in the doctors office. What this does is listens for me, catches words I miss but maybe most importantly, if I miss something and need to review what was said, a glace at this app will review the whole conversation. The app I use is on Android and is called TextHear. It is installable through an open source version of the Google Play Store called F-droid. All apps are open source, cost nothing, have no ads or nag screens, nor are any crippled. First go here and install the F-Droid app: f-droid.org/en/

Then load it up, let it "cache" the available apps out there and finally search under speed to text or dictation and you will find this app.

2. For when I need to speak and cannot. So far I have not found an app that will do the things that I need. For example, any app that pretends to speak for me needs some non-obvious way of selecting the text to say AND have the ability to cache that output so I can "assemble" a simple paragraph one phrase at a time. As for the selection method its a tough one. The simplistic answer I see used on literally every other soundboard or similar app is that your options for speaking are limited to what buttons they can draw on the screen. Even some with tabs are so awkward that it makes fluid use in public a non-starter. And none of these are dynamically extensible. They can't "grow" with me.

So I need a method to be able to select text from a larger database of it using a key system that is intuitive and easy enough to be able to select any text in the database even with memory loss. A tall order to be sure but I do have a good start on it....

So with what few brain cells I have left I am working on it from these angles. Also want to add the concept of "Share..." with the speech system so I can generate text and share it via email, text messages, etc.

PS: Randy: once you install the F-Droid app, you are now set up to install that dog species ID app we were laughing at; I got it here. I still crack up when I see that picture.