where the writers are
Signing With Zombies
Effective Communication

Over the past twenty years I've written a dozen short stories and eight novels with my personal opinion that I was communicating well through words, sharing my life and hopefully gifting entertaining pieces of my imagination through my real and fictional stories.

I liken communicating and writing with dental hygiene, if you don't floss and brush your teeth you'll be rewarded with painful, ugly cavities. Floss and brush daily and pay particular attention to cleaning you teeth then you'll have fresh breath as well as healthy teeth and gums.

If you write ineffectively as with not flossing and brushing, you'll experience the same effects but more subtly, like receiving painful, ugly reactions or no responses to your writing. In that instance, intelligent, sensitive, perceptive, shrewd and clever writing as well as verbal communication could possibly not be your best strengths.

If you're having trouble describing the various types of communication you may as well call the white coats and have them lock you inside a padded room. The variety of verbal and passive means of communicating exists as body-language, eye contact, sign language, para-language with media pictures, graphics, sound and writing as well as a few other means.

Over the past several weeks I've been researching communication techniques between managers, supervisors, care-givers, nurses and medical doctors at (to escape a law suit) I'll call it The Hang-Your-Head Retirement and Assisted Living Community, in Monterey, CA. I've concluded that absent are written and verbal communication policies between the departments and for the community of citizens.

My wife's elderly mother resides at The Hang-Your-head. The 90 year old recently fell and broke her left hip, had surgery a week later, went into rehab for eighteen days afterward then returned to live at the community. But now she is wheelchair bound and needs constant care and supervision. This is where effective communication is heightened and this is also where a failure to communicate and follow-up is inefficient.

I've examined my mother-in-law's life and found it was as though she had lived inside an empty can, with echoes of her past raising three children and working most of her adult life, and her ineffective communication has eclipsed her life-cycle. She is now living in a vacuum with physical disabilities and doesn't know how to express her needs, because she is so busy, still, with verbally convincing her care-givers that she is the most wonderful woman in the world. otherwise, "What will people think?"

The staffers at the retirement community have jobs to do. their daily routines are structured. They perform physical and mental evaluation, make doctor appointments, shuttle residents to off-site appointments, deliver pharmaceuticals and meals, assist with bathroom duties, clean the apartments and make beds, and they each have private lives that intersect with their jobs, yet effective communication at the workplace is lacking between many employees.

My wife performs overwhelming follow-up; interfacing with the employees and she's found that although they comply with the rules they also miscommunicate with other workers, not communicate at all and seldom perform follow-up on problems that arise because they were deemed low priority.

Health-care issues, especially for the elderly is sensitive, it's also a complex subject for the relatives who have to care for them. The care isn't necessarily a material matter of acquiring necessary equipment like wheelchairs, potty seats and hospital beds, all that is a given, but problems arise when an elderly person can't communicate effectively and relies on the knowledge, skills, expertise and compassion care-givers and relatives provide them.

If my wife could round up all the employees at Hang-Your-Head like cattle, corral them, brand them and then show them proof of their indiscretions then she would do that, hoping they would pick up new communicating skills. From my career experiences, that might work as a temporary patch on the ailment but wouldn't cure the disease.

My wife's thirty year career as a receptionist in a busy pediatric dental office required effective communication and follow-up skills, most of which was 90% of business between employees, doctor, patients, parents of patients and insurance companies. Broken down that was 50% written and 50% verbal skills. If something was amiss my wife was on the receiving end and would correct the problem. She now has specialized insight, verbal and otherwise, into misunderstandings and miscommunication in the medical field and offers as much psychosocial and physical assistance she can muster without jeopardizing her own health.

Now that I'm growing older, have a couple of short and long term memory issues but without any real physical concerns, I've explained to my wife that communicating with me is like signing with a zombie. As long as my fingers don't drop off I can point and grunt and groan around the house looking for food.

The most frustrating issues that I've noticed about people in general, is that many of them don't like changes. Frustration overtakes them trying to write, express candid feelings, giving careful advice and at times misinterpreting information they receive and information they dispatch.

As I've experienced it and as I see it, changes in communicating happens, however, on the surface nothing seems to change. With influx of technology; cell phones, iPads, notepads, and ereaders and various other types of communications surge forward, the definition of verbal and written words remain in the ears and eyes of the beholder. And we still have the body language in cyber-space over Skype and PC to PC web-cams.

The most important interactive approachs with the elderly in retirement communities is physical communications; visual compassion, verbal concern and kindness and the most important aspect for the elderly is having the staff collaborate, work together and team up, pool their skills and resources and administrate the most effective and efficient communication and care possible. That's their job and that's what they get paid for. And on top of all that they receive the personal satisfaction of performing their jobs well done.

Now that I've written my short discourse on how to rant and rave that isn't so demeaning or discouraging, I hope it has created some insight into how important communicating is within our elderly society. i can now go back to zombie signing and stage it with a few grunts and groans.

 I'm the author, Ben Campbell, and the publisher, Pants-On-Fire Publications, of eight novels:

DUBROVNIK; a spy adventure

"VITRUVIAN MAN": sequel to Dubrovnik

REGENERATION: sequel to "Vitruvian Man"

KISSING FREUD: psyche drama

WHEN GIANTS DANCE: an urban romance

REGGIE ROCKETSHIP: an urban Sci-fi

IT'S ALL MAKE BELIEVE, ISN'T IT?: an urban fantasy

402 AVALON: my life and time in 1956 San Francisco