Patience is a Virtue
By: Michelle Remold
Patience is something I think many people lack. We seem to want everything done when it’s most convenient for us and don’t want to wait. I admit that when it comes to some things, I can be very impatient. Having to wait in a long line when I am in a hurry can really test my patience. Now imagine you are in a nursing home on a dementia care wing or are caregiving for someone who has Alzheimer’s or dementia and you are being asked the same question over and over. Who are you? Where is my mom? What are you doing? Answering these questions a few times is usually tolerable, but when they are asked every few minutes, it can be taxing.
When being asked the same question multiple times throughout the course of a day or even an hour, it is very easy to become annoyed and raise your voice. The patient doesn’t know they have just asked you this question, to them they are asking it for the first time. As annoyed as you may be, think about how confusing it is for them. They just asked a question and the response they received was short or they feel as though they were being yelled at. I know I’d be confused if I asked someone a question and the first response I received was being yelled at. I wouldn’t understand why my question was responded to in that way.
I understand how hard it can be to ‘keep your cool’ while being asked these questions. While visiting a nursing home recently a resident kept asking where her mom was. At first my response was that we didn’t know where she was. After a while though she asked again, but added that she had thought her mom went somewhere and that she would be back soon. My response, “I think your right. I remember her saying she needed to go to the store.” The resident happily responded with, “Oh yes, she went to get eggs and will be back in a half hour.” Within a few minutes this scenario replayed itself and kept replaying itself for two hours. I just kept telling her that her mom had gone to the store and she would be back shortly. When I look back my second response seemed to be the most logical, as it wouldn’t be comforting that no one knew where your mom was when asked. By giving her this answer, we put her anxiety to rest, even if it was just for a few minutes at a time.
This all comes down to patience. Patience is something I learned at a young age. I can remember visiting my grandpa and asking him if he knew who I was. I was seven and didn’t understand the disease. I would introduce myself over and over in hopes that if I said it enough, it would help. I remember figuring out that if I would talk slow enough, I would be able to get a reaction, even if it was just a smile. I remember bringing puzzles for my grandpa to do and as time went on we would take twenty minutes to put together a ten piece puzzle. I quickly learned that we could still do things, they might just take longer and that having to answer repeated questions wasn’t a big deal, at least we were interacting. My increasing patience became clear with other residents. I remember being asked by a resident to button the cuffs on his shirt and everyone was surprised when I stopped to do it. I contribute my chosen career path to these early encounters on a dementia care wing. I think that these individuals taught me patience in a way that is invaluable and that I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else.
My advice is to take a deep breath and repeat the answer for the umpteenth time. Let them teach you patience and just value the interaction. Patience is a good quality to have. Patience is a virtue.
Michelle graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with her Bachelor of Arts in Gerontology: Social Sciences and a minor in Family Studies. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Aging Studies and Nursing Home Administration from Minnesota State University Mankato.