If we had a nickel for every difficult conversation we needed to have or have tried to avoid, we could put our own rocket into space long before Jeff Bezos, hire our own private nurses, and vacation in Fiji.
We have this or that person who doesn't always help the way we would like. We care for loved ones who are now here or there and it has to be addressed. Perhaps we are on the receiving end of one of those conversations.
Learning about difficult conversations
There is a great book called, Difficult Conversations: How To Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen of the Harvard Negotiation Project. I learned a lot from that book, and it has helped me become more understanding and less offended.
It has helped me avoid less and succeed more.
Conflict vs. consequences
I have also been in student ministry for decades and I have learned a lot about dealing with conflict and the consequences of avoiding it completely. For better or worse, we grow through adversity.
Being the caregiver of someone with Alzheimer's disease gives us lots of opportunities for growth and maybe even the growth of those we bring into that circle of care.
No winners or losers
First thing's first, it can't be about winning and losing. If you set an ultimatum, someone wins and someone loses. No one wants to be the loser.
Arguments have to be about contribution, not fault. We all bring something to the party. We can only own our part. Actually, when we own ours, it frees the other person to give a little. When that happens, don't pounce like the cat that got the canary. It's no time for a gotcha moment.
We have to give positive reinforcement. Thank you is always an appropriate response. The goal isn't winning - it's the relationship. Our lives are an epic tale, not a one-act skit.
Navigating difficult Alzheimer's conversations
When we set up a zero-sum game, we will play alone. If someone can't do what you are asking, for whatever reason, is there an ask that is doable that you both can come up with instead of all or nothing?
These suggestions are good for us and our loved ones with dementia that we are caring for, as well as for those we wish would join us in that care.
Our circle needs to be larger to care for ourselves and our loved ones. That shouldn't be a single choice either. Both of you can win if you can learn to navigate difficult Alzheimer's conversations.
Resisting the blame game
When someone hurts us, we assume the motive was negative. It's just how we are all wired. When the impact is negative, we assume a negative motive. We often take silence as a negative. We rarely fill in the blanks with kindness and understanding. Try to withhold judgment. We all have issues.
We have reached out to whomever and they didn't get back in a timely manner or were busy or said no. We are hurt. We get mad. We get resentful. We think the worst. We "should" on them. "They should [fill in the blank]!" You get the idea.
Difficult conversations and Alzheimer's
We are not the people we were when we started this journey. Our loved one isn't the same either. We have been stretched and risen to challenges we would never have dreamed we could do and, for sure, never wanted.
We have acquired skills and experience that the rest of our circles may not have. We can't expect them to be at the same place we are. It's not fair. But we can teach them if we don't overwhelm them. You have to teach, not demand, people how to treat you.
If people are a certain way to you, it is because you have taught them that's how you want or are willing to be treated. Like teaching a kid how to ride a bike. There will be falls, but with positive reinforcement, and of course, cooperation, they will get there. And your relationship will be better for it.
Giving the opportunity to give
It may be hard to ask for help. You aren't asking because you are weak or lazy. You are giving other people the opportunity to grow and to be blessed. This journey has its good moments, too.
It is better to give than to receive. Give others the opportunity to give, and therefore, to be blessed and grow a little.
It's not all or nothing
Lastly, for now, be specific with your requests. Everyone's challenge is no one's challenge. I ask my daughter to do internet researches. She's good at that. Putting a vague "help" out there doesn't give people clear tracks to run on.
No one likes to impose or overstep. I know you don't either but if someone offers, give a suggestion that is doable, even smaller at first. Ask more later. Give a few suggestions, not just one, so if they can't do one, maybe they can do the other. Again, it's not all or nothing.
You are doing them a favor by letting them help. And "thank you" always goes a long way. How do you navigate difficult conversations around Alzheimer's? Tell us about your experience in the comments below, or share your story with the community.
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