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When I Struggled to Be More Patient With My Mom With Alzheimer's

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Early on in my mom’s Alzheimer’s, I would pick her up at her house and take her out somewhere. We would mostly go out to lunch or shopping, but sometimes we got our hair done or went to the movies.

As much as I enjoyed spending time with my mom, I often found myself frustrated and embarrassed by her. I would lose my patience and snap at her all the time.

I didn’t do it to be mean and I’m not even sure I realized I was doing it at all. I hadn’t accepted her Alzheimer’s yet and still expected her to act normally, whatever that means.

My mom never seemed to notice though. She would just smile sweetly or laugh nervously and move right along. She never snapped back at me or got visibly upset with me for being so impatient with her.

One day I went to pick her up and my dad was home. I walked in to find him standing by the back sliding glass doors. He told me that my mom was still getting ready. He asked what our plans were for the day. And then he said something to me that I remember vividly.

“Be nice to Mom, OK? Earlier she told me, ‘I don’t like going out with Lauren. She’s always rude to me and snaps at me all the time.’”

I got really upset and began defending myself.

My dad said, “Look, I’m just telling you what she said.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

All along I thought it was OK because she didn’t get upset or even seem to notice when I was being rude to her. But she did notice and she was upset, so much so that she mentioned it to my dad.

My mom said she didn’t like going out with me. That’s how rude and impatient I was with her.

At the time, I was mad at my dad for telling me what she said. How dare he say that to me? He had to have known how much it would upset me!

Looking back, I am so grateful that he did. I realize how much courage it took my dad, a man of few words, to tell me that. And honestly, I am certain it had a lasting impact on me, my patience, and the way I treated my mom.

I am grateful that my dad cared enough and loved us both enough to tell me what she said.

If you’re in the earlier stages of this disease with a loved one, it can be very hard to have patience and empathy. It is easy to snap at your loved one out of frustration, but I think we can all agree that you’ll always regret it later.

So the next time your patience is wearing thin, I hope you’ll remember this story. Let my mom and dad’s words be a gentle reminder to be patient and kind.

They notice, even when you don’t think they do.

Originally published: January 31, 2021
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