GENTLE TRANSITIONING, by Kathie Nitz, Relationship Coach

Have you ever been marinating in a really mellow day and then you encounter someone who is super charged?  Maybe they just finished up at the gym, came home from work or are excited to tell you some news?

Although I’m typically an upbeat, enthusiastic person, when I’m not “in that space” these situations can be jarring to me.  I’m spinning at one speed and the other person is spinning at another, which can unexpectedly knock me off kilter! Well, I’ve vowed to keep that in mind whenever I visit my mom.

When she first moved near me, I would (with the best of intentions) fly into her apartment and jump right into her space. Later, my coaches training made me more aware of how I was impacting her environment, and so I began setting my intention to slow down before I entered her space.  Even so, it still took me a while to fully grasp how to effectively recalibrate myself when I’m with her.

We’ve all seen it… (or maybe you’ve done it when visiting someone in an assisted living or skilled nursing community?) a person flies into the parking lot on two wheels, scurries into the lobby, signs in, checks the time, seeks out their loved one, plucks them out of their room, all the while chatting a blue streak.  I’ve come to realize from my own personal experiences that this scenario can be equally if not more jarring for them to receive our energy. Holly Whiteside, FCE’s MindfulCaregiving Guide, gave a great example as I presented this topic to her.  She likened it to transitioning a wintering plant too quickly from the house back out into the garden in spring.  Perfect imagery!  Transition it gently.

By the way, the same is true when leaving your loved one.  A quick kiss and “I’ve got to go” can leave them feeling abandoned. I prepare my mom for our impending separation in ways like this “It’s almost time for lunch.  We’ll go up in a few minutes because your girlfriends will be there waiting for you.”  Repeated a few times as we make our way to the dining room, she happily settles in for her meal in part because I’ve painted a picture that has reassured her before she entered it.

Compare this to a time when my husband, who has a very sweet and funny relationship with my mom, did/said the following (much to my dismay!):  he stood in front of my mom, put his hands on either arm of her wheelchair, leaned in close to her face and said with a grin, “I’ve got bad news for you!  We’re leaving!”  Of course he was kidding, but she couldn’t give it context and only heard the dreaded words “we’re leaving.”  Well, you can imagine how quickly she spiraled down into “You’re just leaving me here like a lump!?” and on it went for a while until I was eventually able to reassure her.

It actually provided a perfect opportunity for me to see how well I’ve set my mom up for success by using gentle transitioning … and also to enlighten my husband on its value and the power of every word and action, especially with someone who has dementia! lol

So, please be mindful of your energy as you transition into and out of your visits with your loved one.  It can make all the difference in the world for everyone!

by Kathie Nitz,


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