My Oma (Grandmother in German) had Alzheimer’s Disease. We all know what it is, a terrible disease that robs an individual of their mind while often leaving their body unscathed.
It’s awful. Really, really awful.
When my Oma was in the throes of Alzheimer’s and could still hold conversation and self-care, but not live on her own it became a real ‘trip’ to visit her.
An Alzheimer’s expert told my mom, “You have to live in her world. You cannot expect her to live in your anymore. You will experience less pain if you meet her where she is instead of expecting her to meet you where you are.” My mom passed that tidbit of information on to me.
What exactly does that mean? Well, one day I walked into her apartment and she was standing at the sink. She had one of those Pampered Chef swishy drink mixers. You know the one?
Yeah, that one. So, she’s standing there pumping that swishy thing up and down, up and down like it’s nobody’s business. It’s sitting on the counter beside her sink. She looks at me with a smile and twinkling eyes. She was famous for twinkling eyes…it was a sign of her happy.”Hey! Do you want to help me make lemonade for the guys? They should be done baling the hay soon.”
Problem #1 – It was mid-January in Iowa, snow was piled against her living room window.
Problem #2 – We were in an assisted living home, in town.
Problem #3 – She forgot the lemonade mix, she was mixing water.
Meet her where she is. Meet her where she is.
“Sure thing. Do you want to use paper or glass cups?”
No, it didn’t make sense to me…but it did to her. Meeting her where she was resulted in less frustration. As soon as we learned this, visiting her became a new adventure. It made no sense to try to convince her that the year was 1999. It would only add to the confusion.
At the time, I didn’t know that would help me understand autism…but it did.
Tucker does not like the things he does not like. There is very little that will change his mind.
Tucker does like the things he does like.
Trying to find the common ground between those two things? Square peg, round hole.
I have NO desire to ‘hammer’ Tucker into what he ‘should’ be – should being according to what other people think, feel, and believe. He is who is he is. Instead of fighting against it – I decided long ago to meet him where he is, to enter into his world.
I could probably be a Vikings Football historian – heck a sports historian, if I wanted. He LOVES the Vikings – everything Vikings. He loves the Vikings so much that his fantasy team still includes Adrien Petersen. He cannot remove him from his team. His response, “I would rather get last in our league (it’s a family league) than to remove him from my team.”
When it comes to the ‘Sports’ category in the new trivia app – Trivia Crack, he’s the ‘go-to’ in our home. He knows more about the Big 10, Pac 10, March Madness, and the SEC than most 12-year-olds.
Most of my life I could have cared less about these things – but it’s Tucker’s thing and it’s my way to reach him. So, when I break into a conversation about how it’s crap that TCU didn’t get into the play-offs…just know I know enough to be dangerous.
Knowing about TCU helps me start the conversation with Tucker…then I can take it where I need it to go. Using the thing that he knows helps us teach him about thing he needs to know.
Respecting Women- Vikings and their darn ‘booze cruise’ is still in recent Vikings history…
Making Good Choices – Oh, AP…that was not a good choice.
Understanding Perception (varying viewpoints) – Not everyone thinks that an individual player is ‘the best’
Respect – Not everyone is a Vikings fan and you have to respect people who are Packers fans
Sarcasm – People will say things that they may not necessarily mean – so if it’s something you know not to be true, it’s most likely sarcasm
Fairness- How many players are on the sidelines? Those players work hard and want to play…but sometimes life just isn’t fair.
Doing His Best – Those players on the sideline? You STILL have to do your best just in case you get the chance you want.
Living in his world helps us connect with him and teach life lessons. Teaching it through his world…no need to hammer. Just find square hole – sure, it takes some more time to drill than a round hole, but it’s well worth the time and energy.
He is worth the time and energy.