The following blog is a true account of one of our Dementia Perspective Challenges. If you want to take on a new perspective of dementia we encourage you to head on over to our Free Download with six challenges.
On a rushed Monday night, I went through the drive-thru with my three kids. I knew I should have been at home creating a home-cooked meal for them, but schedules did not allow. As the kids all screamed out their orders, my youngest asked for extra big mac sauce. I knew we were not at the right fast food restaurant for that so I reached back, patted him on the knee and told him we were not going to order that. “But I want extra big mac sauce!” he exclaimed.
As I was the next in the queue to order, the pressure of what to say into the speaker got the best of me. I decided this was a great opportunity to complete a Dementia Perception Challenge: Requesting something from a drive-thru that is not available. I turned in my chair, smiled at the kids and told them I would order whatever they requested.
So, there we were at the ordering speaker and I found myself ordering tacos, big mac sauce, and a subway sandwich. The order taker on the other end made an audible sigh. There was then some crackling over the speaker and a new voice said in a cocky tone, “Ma’am, what is it that you want?”
I repeated the order and I heard a muffled giggle followed by, “Ma’am, do you know where you are? You cannot go through the drive-thru and NOT know what you want!”
The kids were all silenced by the gruffness in the voice, obviously surprised by what they were hearing. I felt the heat rise up in my neck and into my ears as I become overwhelmingly embarrassed. I took a glance in the rearview mirror and saw cars piling up behind me and I even saw a driver raise his hands and slam them back down onto his steering wheel in frustration. I only became more embarrassed and yet enlightened.
“Of course, I replied” to the speaker, “I will be right in.”
I pulled out of the queue and parked in a spot to catch my breath for a moment. I turned to the kids and told them we would go in and order our food, but first I asked them how they felt.
My daughter told me she was embarrassed for me, “They were not nice at all,” she started, “Why didn’t they just give you more time or explain the menu better?”
My oldest son tried to deter me from going inside at all, “We don’t need anything Mom, it’s OK. I don’t want them to be mean to you again.”
My youngest replied, “When you go inside, can you get me the big mac sauce?”
After we had our food and were at the field house waiting for the band concert to start, I told the kids that I had conducted a type of social experiment, a Dementia Perception Challenge. I went on to explain that some people who are living with dementia often cannot find the right words and get confused easily. At a fast paced location like the drive-thru, it is easy to become overwhelmed and forget what you are doing. Feeling rushed, and being spoken to in a rude manner can just exacerbate the feelings of inadequacy.
The kids were very insightful during our chat mentioning that it was the way I was talked to and the sounds that people used that expressed how impatient they were, especially when I was struggling.
“I would never want anyone to feel that way!” my daughter exclaimed. “From now on I am going to be much more patient with everyone I meet!”
~ Written by Cathy Braxton, CDCS
Chief Education Officer
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