I used to work primarily with Alzheimer patients and their families. I was always amazed at the creative approaches families would use with their loved ones. Often in Alzheimer’s as the disease progresses, daily decision making becomes more and more difficult. I had two families who were having the same problem, when mom dressed in the morning she would put two different shoes on. In one family, the daughter would have a conversation with her mom about how those were two different shoes and point out the differences. Even though the daughter was gentle, the situation left both mom and daughter frustrated. In the other family, they kept one pair of shoes (and one outfit for the day) in the closet, and mom dressed herself with few fashion problems.
In this case, the problem was the same but how each family approached the problem created a world of difference in how stressful the situation was. I wonder how often we are like that first family. Because we want things to be the way they were or the way we want them to be, we spend our time and energy trying to keep things the same. In a way, we are stuck in the past. Instead of looking at the problem before us, we try the solution that worked in the past. That first family was still interacting and expecting their mom to act the way she used to, instead of trying to meet her where she was now.
The second family looked at the problem. Their approach focused on what was, not what should have been. Since mom was having a problem choosing appropriate clothing, they solved the situation by taking the choice out of equation. Both of these
families were mourning the slow, gradual disappearance of their mom and her abilities; however, the second family was addressing the problems in the present. They tried new approaches to the current problems, instead of trying to have mom function like she did in the past.
When we are unable to let go of our expectations about how a situation should be (for example, Mom should be able to identify that those are two different shoes), it creates unnecessary stress and suffering. But, when we are able to take a step back, let
go of our attachment to the past, or ‘the way it ought to be’, we free ourselves from unnecessary suffering. In addition, we can then see the situation clearly and find a healthier solution to the situation.
What problems in your life are you approaching in a way that creates unnecessary suffering? Remember, you can’t control the wind, but you can adjust your sails. If you would like to work on “adjusting your sails”, I am available to help. Please contact me, 314-780-8328.