Patience is a virtue, and perhaps a rare one. We could certainly argue that in an age of increased tempos, packed schedules, multi-tasking, and alarmingly short attention spans, as a society, we practice patience less and less often. This is not a desirable trend for a nation with a rapidly expanding population of elderly people.

As we age, we don’t always retain the same level of capability that we may have possessed as younger, healthier adults. At Far Rockaway Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, we understand that aging is, however, a naturally occurring process that none of us can fully control. Therefore, it is important to remind ourselves to be compassionate when dealing with the elderly, and exercising patience is a big part of practicing that compassion.

Still, it would be unrealistic to expect that one would never have cause to be frustrated with an elderly patient or loved one. It’s not as important that you never experience feelings of frustration as that you outwardly display patience when possible. That transition from internal to external can be difficult, so we have a few suggestions to help you manage your possible frustration.

You can start by accepting, in a caring and compassionate manner, that aging sometimes clouds the mind. Instead of expecting elderly patients to continue to think as clearly as you and being frustrated when they are unable, try to imagine being unable to think clearly yourself. Imagine how confusing, frustrating, and sometimes frightening that must be.

The last thing you would need would be for a loved one to judgmentally emphasize to you how much you’re struggling. Make a real effort to take an understanding, cooperative approach by speaking more kindly, recognizing those items with which your loved one may be struggling, and helping to install warm, helpful reminder strategies (like notes, alarms, etc.) when appropriate.

Keep in mind, as well, that many elderly people live in environments or situations which allow them relatively limited daily exposure to external stimuli and reduced control over their own daily lives. Understand that your loved one may repeat themselves because they cannot remember everything clearly and usually are not intaking a great deal of external information. This shrinking of their experiential world may be alarming to them, and they may sometimes act out in response in an effort to retain a certain level of control over some aspects of their own lives. Again, the key is to try to view the situation from the perspective of being them, not managing them. Understanding why a person may think and act the way they do makes exercising patience with that person much easier.