Practicing Patience: Alzheimer's and the Importance of Empathy
If I had a nickel for every time I snapped at my mom during the early stages of Alzheimer's, I would be rich. How about you?
It took me a few years to accept my mom's diagnosis. During that time, I found it very hard to have patience with her. I expected her to be able to do things she was no longer able to do and when she couldn't do them, I would snap. Or, if she didn't understand something that I thought she should be able to understand, I would snap at her.
Accepting the Alzheimer's diagnosis
Over time, I came to accept my mom's Alzheimer's, and that allowed me to have more empathy, patience, and understanding with her. I began to lower my expectations of her. That in turn, allowed me to have more patience and empathy with her and our situation.
If I no longer expected her to do things she could no longer do, then I didn't snap at her for not being able to do them. If I no longer expected her to understand what I was saying, then I didn't lose my patience when she asked me to repeat something.
Having empathy for my mom's Alzheimer's
I also began to look at how Alzheimer's was affecting my mom instead of only how it was affecting me. How did it feel to be her? What must it be like to get through the day?
By putting myself in her shoes more often, it allowed me to have more empathy for what she was going through. It made me stop and think before I responded to something she said or did. Thinking before I reacted allowed me the opportunity to choose to respond with patience and understanding instead of snapping at her.
Practicing patience and Alzheimer's
Being able to pause for even one breath before you react to your loved one is huge in developing more patience. In that one breath, you are able to choose how you respond instead of just reacting out of anger or frustration.
If you can practice pausing for one breath, not just with your loved one but in any frustrating situation, you might be surprised at how much more patience you have. With practice, pausing before you respond will become your default setting rather than simply reacting without thinking first.
My evolution: from impatient to unbothered
Before my mom had Alzheimer's, I considered myself to be a very impatient person. I would get angry and frustrated easily over the smallest things. But now after dealing with my mom's Alzheimer's for ten years, it's quite the opposite.
Long lines, traffic, and waiting rooms don't bother me nearly as much as they used to. It actually takes a lot to rattle me these days.
I have found that finding acceptance, lowering your expectations, putting yourself in their shoes, and pausing before you respond can dramatically increase the amount of patience you have with your loved one. You, too, can become a more patient person overall.
As they say, practice makes perfect. Or in this case, practice makes patience.
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