On Thursday mornings at the church, there's a social gathering for senior citizens. This is an inclusive bunch, as "senior citizen" is defined as "anyone age 50 or over." Bet you didn't know you were a "senior citizen," did you?
First there's food, then there's a brief devotional, and then there's the real reason everyone is there: Chicken Foot Dominoes! And conversation. The room in which the group meets has no carpeting or sound baffling to absorb the noise, so it can be hard to hear what the person across the table is saying, especially for those with hearing issues. And it can be hard to concentrate, especially for those with memory issues.
Chicken Foot is an important part of Harry's weekly schedule. He enjoys the game and almost always comes out victorious. At least, he thinks he does. But sometimes the noisy atmosphere makes it hard for him to keep track of whose turn it is, or whether or not he's had an opportunity to put his tile down, or whether he's been passed over. And when he's frustrated or confused, he can be abrupt and impatient. It's sometimes hard for others to understand that this isn't anger or aggression. It's fear and confusion. The best way to handle that is with patience and kindness.
A fearful and confused person is not going to react well to irritated reminders of how to play the game, rolling eyeballs, requests to calm down, or other assorted reactions that can unfortunately be expected when others don't understand how difficult it is for him and how much he needs this social interaction. His memory and executive ability might not be what they once were (absolutely brilliant), but he is still smart. He might not remember what it was that made him feel bad around a person, but he'll remember the feeling and associate it with that person.
So, if you find yourself in a situation where you have the opportunity to either put gasoline on the fire of confusion or defuse the bomb of frustration, please choose to defuse the bomb. Measure your words, be careful of your tone of voice, and try a little gentleness. It'll go a long way towards getting a calm and relaxed result.
"But I talked to him about it three times," someone said to me. "You'd think he'd learn!"
Well, actually, no. My point exactly. But thanks for understanding...and, thankfully, most of these wonderful seniors are kind, patient, and very (very) understanding. To them, I send heartfelt thanks!
"A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare." - Proverbs 15:1