Teaching by Example: How to Treat My Loved One With Alzheimer's
Last updated: February 2023
There were many times throughout my mom's battle with Alzheimer's when I became frustrated with the way someone else treated her. Sometimes, it was someone we ran into at the grocery store. Other times, it was my own dad.
I would see the way someone else treated my mom, and I would physically cringe. An acquaintance would ask me about my mom right in front of her as if she wasn't there. A distant family member would talk more loudly as if she was hard of hearing. My own dad would speak too fast and use too many words, becoming frustrated and impatient when my mom didn't understand what he was saying.
I realized that while I had read much information about Alzheimer's and various tips and tricks to deal with specific symptoms, most people had not. They weren't acting inappropriately or approaching my mom the wrong way on purpose. They simply didn't know any better.
I felt that if they knew better, then they would treat her differently. But how could I teach others what I already knew and get them to treat my mom differently?
Shouting doesn't help
At first, I tried telling people what to do. I explained that shouting at my mom wouldn't help her understand them any better. I told my dad that he needed to speak more slowly and simply so that my mom could follow along with what he was saying.
I became frustrated when people didn't take my advice and continued to act the same way around my mom. I desperately wanted them just to get it, but they didn't. It was infuriating!
Let it go
Over time, I realized that I could not control other people's behavior and was not responsible for it either.
It wasn't my job to lecture everyone in an attempt to educate them. And most of the time, what I said went in one ear and out the other. There was nothing I could say to change the way others treated my mom.
I had to show them.
Teaching by example
I realized that instead of trying to tell everyone what to do, I simply had to model it for them. Rather than telling an acquaintance at the store that it was rude to talk about my mom in front of her like she wasn't there, I just included my mom in the conversation until they got the point.
Rather than telling a family member that shouting at my mom wouldn't make a difference, I spoke to my mom at a normal volume until they matched it.
And rather than correct my dad when he talked too fast, I spoke to my mom slowly, using as few words as possible so he could see that she understood better this way.
Instead of making myself a martyr for how to treat someone with Alzheimer's, I made myself a model.
And guess what... It worked.
Leading by example to spare yourself
It can be incredibly frustrating to watch someone interact with your loved one in a way that you know is not beneficial, but it's important to recognize that you cannot control someone else's actions.
Trying to tell them what to do or constantly correcting them might have zero impact on their behavior. Sometimes, people just need to see it for themselves to finally understand. Fortunately, they have you to show them how it's done.
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