Please Don't Talk About My Loved One in Front of My Loved One

One time during my mom's journey with Alzheimer's, I helped my dad take her to a family party. I was sitting on the couch next to my mom when a very distant family member, who was sitting across from us, asked me, "So, how are you handling all the mom stuff?"

She asked me this right in front of my sweet mom, who fortunately — or unfortunately — had no clue that this woman was talking about her.

This happens more often than you may think

Despite how I felt in the moment, I did not rip this woman's head off, but I did my best to incorporate my mom into the conversation. Without expressly saying so, I wanted this woman to understand that it was rude and disrespectful for her to talk about my mom, in front of my mom, as if she was not even there.

I cannot even tell you how many times something like this happened during the 10 years my mom lived with Alzheimer's. It probably happened more times than I can count!

Protecting a loved one's dignity

While I understand that most people who have never dealt with Alzheimer's do not really understand how the disease works, I also think it's important to educate people in order to protect your loved one's dignity. I cannot think of another scenario where an adult would talk about another adult right in front of them, as if they were not even there.

It's rude.
It's hurtful.
And it's disrespectful.

A person with Alzheimer’s may have lost the ability to understand that someone is talking about them, or even what they are talking about at all, but that does not mean that people should treat them as if they are invisible.

Still a full, whole human

A person with Alzheimer's is still a full, whole human being with feelings, who deserves respect and consideration. And even if the person with Alzheimer's does not have a clue that someone is speaking about them, their caregiver does. As a former caregiver myself, I can say that it feels extremely dismissive and uncomfortable when someone talks about your loved one as if they are not there.

This or That

Has anyone ever treated your loved one as if they were invisible?

If you are on the receiving end of a conversation like this, my best advice is to try to model the behavior you would like to see in others. You can show other people how to treat your loved one by your own behavior.

Simply including your loved one in any conversations happening around them might be enough to give others the hint — it's not okay to talk about my loved one in front of my loved one, as if they are not here. If you are the one initiating a conversation like this, please know that it is not polite to talk about someone who has Alzheimer's right in front of them, as if they are not there.

It is the thought that counts

Caregivers understand that it can be difficult to include a person with Alzheimer's in a conversation, but your efforts will go a long way in showing them that you respect their loved one’s dignity as much as they do. And if you really want to know how the person with Alzheimer's is doing or how the caregiver is handling everything, pull them aside for a private conversation at another time.

We can all work together to love and respect people who are living with Alzheimer's! They deserve the same dignity as everyone else.

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