Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Family and Children => Topic started by: Thipu1 on June 18, 2013, 05:57:44 PM

Title: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Thipu1 on June 18, 2013, 05:57:44 PM
We had the big family gathering this weekend and everything went off swimmingly. 

However, MIL seems to be having a bit of a problem with numbers.  She's perfectly fine with questions about money but statistics seem to throw her a bit.

When we all gathered, she gleefully informed us that the resort was located 10,000 feet above sea level.  That's not possible. At most, it's about 1 ,200 feet about sea level. 

During a breakfast conversation, we were told that a single University in Beijing graduated 7 million students this year.  That's also not possible.  A reading of the article in question revealed that the 7million figure referred to ALL university graduates in China this year. 

We, and other members of the family can't just let these things go because MIL is imparting similar pearls of wisdom her Great Grandchildren. Also, we don't want outsiders to think that MIL is losing it.  We want to be gentle butler her know what the facts are.

Any suggestions?       
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: LeveeWoman on June 18, 2013, 06:02:32 PM
I'd ignore it because she's doing no harm.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Thipu1 on June 18, 2013, 06:09:19 PM
She may be doing no harm to others but the family worries that she may be doing harm to the perception of herself.  That's what bothers us about these gross factual inaccuracies. 
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: daen on June 18, 2013, 06:17:15 PM
She may be doing no harm to others but the family worries that she may be doing harm to the perception of herself.  That's what bothers us about these gross factual inaccuracies. 
I'm not certain what you mean about "the perception of herself."

If it's her own perception of herself, I think correction would be more distressing than letting her believe she is perfectly fine.

If it's her descendants' perception of her, a little private damage control with the children, along the lines of what you said before, that Great-Grandmother is still good with money and small figures, but can be inaccurate with bigger abstract concepts, would probably do as much or more than public correction.

In any event, my guess is that being corrected publically, especially more than once, will upset her. If I remember correctly, this is likely to be her last get-together with all her family, and I wouldn't want that spoiled for her.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: TootsNYC on June 18, 2013, 06:23:24 PM
She may be doing no harm to others but the family worries that she may be doing harm to the perception of herself.  That's what bothers us about these gross factual inaccuracies.

But won't people be getting an *accurate* perception of her?

They'll think she's a gleeful know-it-all who gets her facts wrong.

*IF* they even know that there are 7 million college graduates in all of China.

And is that really such a horrible opinion of her to have? (for one, it's accurate, and accurate is always valuable.) Really, does that make her malicious? Hate-able? Does that make her someone you'd never want to have a conversation with?

Not at all. It *does* make her someone you wouldn't want to rely on for very many hard, cold facts. But then, since that's true, isn't that something people ought to know about her?

Leave it alone.

If people are aware enough to realize that MIL is fudging her numbers (or, going with the basic gist--"this resort is really high in altitude!"--and slapping any old figure on it), they aren't going to hate her. They may not recommend her for a job as a reporter or fact-checker, but then--she's not applying for that.

Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: TootsNYC on June 18, 2013, 06:26:07 PM
Also, really, the grandkids won't remember the details of her being wrong just because she's wrong. Will they remember 10,000 feet above sea level?

But they *will* remember that you all were willing to correct her on something that really didn't matter. And THAT will damage their perception of her far more than her un-carefully-used numbers will.

Just focus on the gist of it--"yeah, the altitude here is really high."

and if any of the kids do realize it, isn't the lesson supposed to be: "we cut people some slack when they're talking off the top of their heads--all the more so if they're getting a little older and maybe mentally tired"?

That's the lesson I'd prefer to send my kids, if I were one of the aunts & uncles there. I'd really hate for you to send the message that it's necessary to correct people all the time.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Kiwichick on June 18, 2013, 06:31:10 PM
So she made two mistakes with numbers at a time when she's excited and happy.  The seven million mistake could easily have been because she skimmed the article.

She may well have known she made a mistake at the time but because she's just making conversation she didn't bother to correct herself.

Leave it alone.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: JoieGirl7 on June 18, 2013, 06:38:04 PM
Depending on why she is getting these things wrong, telling her what the actual facts are isn't going to mean she is going to remember and impart them correctly in the future.
 
Not to get into actual medical advice , but something I learned when my mom was ill that really surprised me was that the doctor told us that sometimes a bladder infection in an elderly person can manifest itself in ways that seem like dementia or other cognitive impairment.

When noticing troubling symptoms like this, having a doctor evaluate one's health is always a good idea.  It's never a good idea to assume that troubling things we notice in our elderly loved ones is just a normal part of the aging process.

It might be, it might not.  The doctor's office can also be a good place to find resources for the best way to deal with these problems.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: mich3554 on June 18, 2013, 06:43:16 PM
For things like this, it's really not important to correct them.  I wouldn't, I'd just let it slide.  It really isn't worth it IMO, it's not harming anyone.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Thipu1 on June 18, 2013, 07:07:12 PM
First of all, we weren't  piling on her.  The questions about what she said were presented in a quiet way by another family or two over a cup of tea. 

'Grandma, here's what the brochure says about the resort'.

'Please Grandma, look at this article again and tell me what it says'.

MIL has always been a little dramatic and ditsy.  When she was in her 60s, people just shrugged these things off as, 'That's just the way she is'.  Now that she's in her mid 90s, we're concerned that people where she lives may begin to believe that MIL suffers from Dimentia.  That is why we need to be very gentle and polite when these things come up again.   

Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: SPuck on June 18, 2013, 07:14:03 PM
MIL has always been a little dramatic and ditsy.  When she was in her 60s, people just shrugged these things off as, 'That's just the way she is'.  Now that she's in her mid 90s, we're concerned that people where she lives may begin to believe that MIL suffers from Dimentia.  That is why we need to be very gentle and polite when these things come up again.   

Correcting her might bring out that drama, and no matter what correcting her will always draw attention. You can't stop people from having their thoughts about your mother in law, no matter how admiring or degrading they could be.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: JoieGirl7 on June 18, 2013, 07:17:27 PM
First of all, we weren't  piling on her.  The questions about what she said were presented in a quiet way by another family or two over a cup of tea. 

'Grandma, here's what the brochure says about the resort'.

'Please Grandma, look at this article again and tell me what it says'.

MIL has always been a little dramatic and ditsy.  When she was in her 60s, people just shrugged these things off as, 'That's just the way she is'.  Now that she's in her mid 90s, we're concerned that people where she lives may begin to believe that MIL suffers from Dimentia.  That is why we need to be very gentle and polite when these things come up again.   

I'm very confused.  She may well be suffering from dementia.  How is that anyone else's business and who cares if they think it is?

You can't control what others think.  I am really confused as to who your priority is--other people and what they may think, or your grandmother and her health.

People will always talk.  They will always have something to say.

My issues is this.  If your grandmother is showing symptoms beyond being ditsy to where you feel she is cognitively impaired, then you should be concerned about her health and not her reputation.

It's not really scandalous to think that a 90 year is not quite all there with the facts.

And of course you should always be polite but even what you have described in sitting down with her and having her go over the pamphlet and asking her it says comes across as condescending, not caring--because its about something that really doesn't matter.

If she is not understanding how to turn the stove off, that's a real concern.  But, not understanding that 7 million people graduated from all of China and not just one university really isn't.  One endangers her life, the other does not.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Kiwichick on June 18, 2013, 07:39:44 PM
First of all, we weren't  piling on her.  The questions about what she said were presented in a quiet way by another family or two over a cup of tea. 

'Grandma, here's what the brochure says about the resort'.

'Please Grandma, look at this article again and tell me what it says'.

MIL has always been a little dramatic and ditsy.  When she was in her 60s, people just shrugged these things off as, 'That's just the way she is'.  Now that she's in her mid 90s, we're concerned that people where she lives may begin to believe that MIL suffers from Dimentia.  That is why we need to be very gentle and polite when these things come up again.   

I really don't understand why you are placing so much importance on a couple of mistakes. 

So she got a couple of facts wrong.  Having multiple people tackle her about them, not in the moment when it might have mattered, but later when it absolutely didn't matter strikes me as a major overreaction.
And asking her to prove her reading comprehension by rereading the article and reporting back is just plain condescending.

So what if the people around her think she has dementia, she may well have, it's nothing to be ashamed of. 
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Calistoga on June 18, 2013, 07:45:32 PM
I can't see why correcting her would help any. It's not as though she's never going to make another mistake... correcting her over matters that are so unimportant will, at most, upset or annoy her.

Either she's making innocent mistakes because she's losing her marbles, or she's making innocent mistakes because she's a human being. Neither is worth correcting her.

Now, if she starts incorrectly remembering important things... that would be the time to talk to her and correct her.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Thipu1 on June 18, 2013, 07:57:59 PM
When I started this thread, I never expected that it would get this big and this heated so soon. 

I expected to get some hints on how to politely and gently help an elderly lady not look like a fool in front of people who do not know her. 

MIL has had some physical health problems lately.  She's been thoroughly checked out and, two weeks ago, we sat in on a consultation with her primary care physician. MIL presented herself well so these statements came out of the blue, as it were. 

Because of the turn this thread has taken, I would ask the Mods to close it down. 
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Secret on June 18, 2013, 08:05:50 PM
Is it really bad that I never would have thought twice about the statistics you just gave me?  They'd go in one ear and out the other (Unless it was something really interesting for me).  I may think about it later and remember that Denver is no where near that high, so it can't be right.  then I may think I got my feet vs meters wrong or heard wrong.

It may not be such a big deal if there are a lot of people like me out there.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Tea Drinker on June 18, 2013, 08:08:16 PM
I wouldn't worry if the errors are all that sort of order-of-magnitude thing, because lots of people get that kind of thing wrong, whether it's distance or weight or population: at some point a thousand or a million are both just "lots," and they may not have the feel for numbers that tells them that a university can't have graduated that many people, or that 5.5% tax on a $30 purchase couldan't be 19 cents (though I couldn't immediately say what the right answer was). Or your feel for numbers may be misleading you: Wikipedia lists four universities with over 1 million students currently enrolled, and another six with at least half a million. The largest is the Indira Gandhi Open University, with 3,500,000 students. (That's a distance learning institution.) It's partly the difference between university systems, and individual campuses: They list the University System of Ohio and the State University of New York has having over 450,000 students each. That doesn't mean there are that many students on campus in Albany or Buffalo or Stony Brook.

The best I can think of if you're sure she's wrong would be to gently change the subject away from the number, say "yes, and I really like X thing about this resort" or "I don't think I'd like such a large university, I'm glad I went to Small College."
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Zizi-K on June 18, 2013, 08:12:48 PM
To answer the original question, you politely correct her the same way you might correct a younger person. If, as you say, she is perfectly in her right mind, then you correct her at 90 the same way you corrected her at 60 - nonchalantly, quietly, nonconfrontationally. "Actually, Grandma, I think that the 7 million figure was for the whole country of China, but I agree that is quite a bit either way!" Or, "Is it really 7 million, that sounds so high! Let me check the article...oh yes, here it is, 7 million students in all of China..."

I think what many other posters are reacting to, though, is the notion that a 90 year old woman should care what other people think about her, especially with respect to something so innocuous as getting a figure wrong. Unless she makes her money doing complex calculations, I also can't see what the big deal is. At that age, I think she's earned the right to be (very slightly) eccentric!
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: LeveeWoman on June 18, 2013, 08:17:15 PM
When I started this thread, I never expected that it would get this big and this heated so soon. 

I expected to get some hints on how to politely and gently help an elderly lady not look like a fool in front of people who do not know her. 

MIL has had some physical health problems lately.  She's been thoroughly checked out and, two weeks ago, we sat in on a consultation with her primary care physician. MIL presented herself well so these statements came out of the blue, as it were. 

Because of the turn this thread has taken, I would ask the Mods to close it down.

I don't see how it's heated at all. I see people disagreeing with your decision to correct someone.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Calistoga on June 18, 2013, 08:19:25 PM
I think your concern is misplaced- I doubt anyone will think she's a fool for making simple mistakes. Chances are, most people won't even notice. If she were telling everyone about how the moon is made of refried beans or something that's glaringly, obviously wrong, it would be one thing.

I don't think anyone is trying to respond with hostility here, it's just that most of us don't see this is as an issue that needs correction. You said yourself, she's 90 years old but still doing wonderfully. My grandmother is only in her late 70's and she swears up and down that she went to high school with my husband. If anyone thinks that someone who makes a simple mistake is a fool...well, that sounds like a personal problem.

I guess the real question is... when your MIL says these things, do YOU think she's a fool?
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Lynn2000 on June 18, 2013, 08:38:31 PM
To answer the original question, you politely correct her the same way you might correct a younger person. If, as you say, she is perfectly in her right mind, then you correct her at 90 the same way you corrected her at 60 - nonchalantly, quietly, nonconfrontationally. "Actually, Grandma, I think that the 7 million figure was for the whole country of China, but I agree that is quite a bit either way!" Or, "Is it really 7 million, that sounds so high! Let me check the article...oh yes, here it is, 7 million students in all of China..."

I think what many other posters are reacting to, though, is the notion that a 90 year old woman should care what other people think about her, especially with respect to something so innocuous as getting a figure wrong. Unless she makes her money doing complex calculations, I also can't see what the big deal is. At that age, I think she's earned the right to be (very slightly) eccentric!

POD to this. If one feels the need to make a correction, one could say something like, "Oh, did you say ten thousand, or one thousand? It's certainly quite high, I felt a little woozy when I first got up here!"

But generally I have to agree with the others, that these two particular instances you cite seem so inconsequential to me, that I don't know why one would bother correcting them. In the first place, they actually aren't things that I, personally, would immediately notice were even wrong (probably says something about my own capacity for numbers); and secondly, they aren't things that make the slightest bit of difference in my world, whether they're wrong or right.

If she'd added two extra zeroes to her bank balance and was spending accordingly, or thought someplace 10 miles away was really 1000 miles away and balked at going there for dinner, that would be more problematic. I guess if people I knew thought a 90-year-old, otherwise healthy woman was a "fool" or must have dementia because she got a couple of inconsequential figures wrong, I would find that more telling of the people who'd made the judgment, than of the woman they were judging.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: bibbety on June 18, 2013, 08:55:23 PM
To answer this statement:

"I expected to get some hints on how to politely and gently help an elderly lady not look like a fool in front of people who do not know her. "

I think that what people  trying to tell you is that it is probably not polite or gentle to call attention to the idea that she looks like "a fool."

People are very generous with the elderly who may get some facts wrong or repeat themselves.

I'd let it go. It sounds as if you may be struggling with the fact that she is getting older and perhaps slipping a bit. I sympathize with you on that, but don't worry about her public face, especially with her grandchildren. They need to learn that people change with age.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: TootsNYC on June 18, 2013, 09:17:34 PM
First of all, we weren't  piling on her.  The questions about what she said were presented in a quiet way by another family or two over a cup of tea. 

'Grandma, here's what the brochure says about the resort'.

'Please Grandma, look at this article again and tell me what it says'.

MIL has always been a little dramatic and ditsy.  When she was in her 60s, people just shrugged these things off as, 'That's just the way she is'.  Now that she's in her mid 90s, we're concerned that people where she lives may begin to believe that MIL suffers from Dimentia.  That is why we need to be very gentle and polite when these things come up again.   

This woman is going to die soon (well, OK, not tomorrow, but within 10 years, in all probability). And you all seldom see her. Why are you wasting your precious time with her, time that will never come again, on finding the brochure so that you can find a discreet time later to point out to her an error in a statement that she (and most other people who were in the room) doesn't even remember?

I do not think that people around her are going to assume she is suffering from dementia because she throws out weird-sounding numbers or blathers on, sounding like an expert when she clearly, clearly isn't. Everybody does that. No matter what their age. Hell, *I* do it.

If they're her contemporaries, they're probably not that worried about it. They may not even notice it. And if they're health professionals, they'll have far more sensible things to use as a benchmark.

In the moment, feel free to say, "well, maybe not 10,000 feet, but it sure is up there, isn't it?" Or, "well, maybe 7 million is a rough figure, but that's interesting--one single university graduates a huge percentage of the college students in China?"


That will clue people in that the exact number is probably wrong. But the GIST of it is right, isn't it? Isn't the resort at a noticeably, remarkably high altitude? Higher than many other places?
   And doesn't that one college in China have a large percentage of the students? So you can certainly reinforce the idea that the exact number is probably iffy with the tactic I suggested.

It's great that your MIL is even interested in stuff like that, esp. esoteric stuff like college students in China.

If you correct her, you may make her so self-conscious that she stops sharing stuff with the rest of you or--worse--stops paying attention to stuff like that.

I think there's a pretty unanimous response here.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: katycoo on June 19, 2013, 12:01:44 AM
"Oh I read that article.  But I recall it said & million in all of China.  So interesting, hey?"

"I'm sure 10,000 isn't quite right.  I was looking at [something relevant] which said XX so it must be more like 1,200m.  Do you remember where you read that?  I'm intrested to see what it says."
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Miss Tickle on June 19, 2013, 12:17:20 AM
Hugs Thipu1.

If it's only a few numbers or something your MIL has read, perhaps she can't see as well as she'd like you to think. As long as her "lapses" are not really serious or life threatening, it's a testament to how well your MIL has thrived for so long.

If you must correct someone, please correct the person who thinks your MIL a fool.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Maude on June 19, 2013, 12:35:57 AM

.  Now that she's in her mid 90s, we're concerned that people where she lives

 
[/quote]

You seem very concerned about the people where she lives.
What does it matter WHAT they think?
Your MIL is loved by all the family.
That is more important than a few residents of an assisted living facility.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: JoieGirl7 on June 19, 2013, 12:39:16 AM
Maybe the issue is that she cares what other people think.  Are you trying to help her save face for her own sake?
 
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: TheBardess on June 19, 2013, 06:40:31 AM
When I started this thread, I never expected that it would get this big and this heated so soon. 

I expected to get some hints on how to politely and gently help an elderly lady not look like a fool in front of people who do not know her. 

MIL has had some physical health problems lately.  She's been thoroughly checked out and, two weeks ago, we sat in on a consultation with her primary care physician. MIL presented herself well so these statements came out of the blue, as it were. 

Because of the turn this thread has taken, I would ask the Mods to close it down.

I really think you are placing way too much importance on these mistakes she made, and vastly overestimating how they will affect people's opinion of her. If I were there and heard your grandmother talking about the height of the resort or the number of college graduates in China, the numbers would probably go in one ear and out the other. Even if I remembered them later and checked to see if they were accurate, or even if I had a feeling at the time that the numbers didn't seem quite right, I certainly would not think your grandmother was a fool. I would think she was a perfectly ordinary human being who occasionally got her numbers mixed up or had a slip of the tongue- something that happens to all of us at one time or another. I might put it down to age, but more likely I would just put it down to her being human and thus occasionally mistaken.

Honestly, you really need to let this go. Seriously, why is it so terribly important that your grandmother be able to correctly identify the number of college graduates in China? What does it matter? These really aren't glaring or important mistakes that are going to have any effect on her or other's lives. If she starts telling people (in all seriousness) that the moon is made of Swiss cheese, or standing on the street corner yelling at passersby that seven million people just graduated from one university in China  then you can worry about her "looking like a fool." But incorrectly listing the height of the resort in passing? So what? Who cares?
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: bopper on June 19, 2013, 08:11:26 AM
My GMIL is over 90.  She will regale you with stories of places she has been. Non-family members will be convinced she has been there. Except she has not traveled to those places at all.  There is no point in correcting her.  We will quietly say to the  person if we think it necessary that she really hasn't been to those places.  These people will know that she has memory issues. That is okay, because she does.

Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Luci on June 19, 2013, 08:18:30 AM
I want to be corrected. I want to be coddled physically, not mentally.

Admittedly, I'm 20 years younger than she is, but if I am in my right mind (if I ever am), I'm sure I will still want to get the facts straight. My dad did when he was 92.

Politely correct me then as you do now, particularly if there are those around who believe me. In my family, we do remember stuff like was mentioned in the opening post.

I realize this is not what most others are saying.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: TootsNYC on June 19, 2013, 08:34:05 AM
I want to be corrected. I want to be coddled physically, not mentally.

Admittedly, I'm 20 years younger than she is, but if I am in my right mind (if I ever am), I'm sure I will still want to get the facts straight. My dad did when he was 92.


Here is one difference that I think it sort of important:

The OP told us (in one of her later posts):

Quote
MIL has always been a little dramatic and ditsy.  When she was in her 60s, people just shrugged these things off as, 'That's just the way she is'.

And again, I think people have given options--but it just seems a total waste of time. MIL is not going to chance; she's always been the sort of person who would vaguely remember the numbers but say them anyway.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: LadyL on June 19, 2013, 08:39:05 AM
Maybe the issue is that she cares what other people think.  Are you trying to help her save face for her own sake?
 

This to me is the crux of it. You can't be the proxy for someone else's feelings. If she is the type to be embarrassed, by all means gently correct her. If she is unlikely to care then let it go. Sounds like she is still a fully functional adult cognitively speaking, she can run her own social interference.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Thipu1 on June 19, 2013, 10:30:56 AM
Thanks to everyone.  You've given us plenty to consider.

I agree that the corrections in my original post were trivial.  The corrections were gentle and didn't put a damper on the gathering at all.  MIL was relieved to learn that a single University in Beijing did not graduate 7 million students this year. 

There's a larger problem of which this only a part.  MIL is sane but very credulous.  She will read and believe all sorts of odd political, medical and societal posts she receives in her Email or sees on the Net. 

She is certain that women in India successfully manage their cancers by drinking lots of vinegar.  She is also sure that every young woman who enrolls in a certain University will be raped in her Freshman year.  We won't even go near the Conspiracy theories and the rewriting of history.       

We're all concerned that beliefs like this  could get her into real trouble somewhere along the line and refer her to sites like Snopes when we hear about them.  We're even more concerned about beliefs she has that we haven't heard about.

I realize this is a problem that goes well beyond the limits of E-Hell.  I put out the original post to ask for acceptable ways of dealing with small things as a way of diplomatically dealing with larger issues. 

 
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Winterlight on June 19, 2013, 10:55:17 AM
I'd Snopes anything really out there for her and let the minor stuff go.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: BeagleMommy on June 19, 2013, 10:58:29 AM
Thipu, I have a cousin who believes all the conspiracy theories as well (even when they contradict each other).  It's not just an elderly thing.

I think as long as she's not forgetting vital information (e.g. where she lives, names of close relatives, etc.) you don't need to worry.  Gently correcting her is fine.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Roe on June 19, 2013, 11:13:18 AM
Wait, she's 90?  Yeah, I'd let it go.  Even the conspiracy theories.  Or I'd gently say "I don't know about that" and just beandip. 

It really isn't all that important in the grand scheme of things, esp if she's 90 as people are quite forgiving.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Lynn2000 on June 19, 2013, 11:27:31 AM
Just speaking generally, I usually ask myself these questions when I encounter someone with far-out views:

1) Is this new behavior for them?
2) Am I actually responsible for their behavior?
3) Could this behavior hurt them or someone else?

Since MIL has always been like this, and being your MIL you might reasonably feel somewhat responsible for her, that leaves #3. If she believes Obama is literally the Biblical Anti-Christ (actual theory from someone I know), her believing that probably isn't going to hurt anyone. If she feels his presidency means the End of Days is nigh and she ought to spend all her money before the world ends, that could harm her and her descendents, and someone should step in.

Regarding the dementia aspect, what I imagine is that the health professionals monitoring her would ask the family if this was new behavior for her, and when they said no, they would exempt it from the list of mental illness symptoms. So to me, this doesn't really rise to the level of what she says harming her.

If people around her think she's daffy for saying these things... well, she's 90 years old and in her right mind, she's probably gotten bad reactions before and has decided that it's important to her to keep on saying these things, despite the perception. In other words, if she was really concerned about people thinking she was daffy, she would stop saying non-mainstream things at all (as long as she has the mental faculties to make that decision).

We had a thread recently about ways to beandip relatives with wacky, often offensive conspiracy theories; it had some good ideas about how to redirect the conversation, if what she's saying upsets other people. There's certainly no need to let her dominate the conversation with topics that are hurtful; someone can swoop in and change the subject, without subtlety if necessary.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: JeanFromBNA on June 19, 2013, 02:21:40 PM
If you want confirmation that your Grandmother is not alone in her preference for tinfoil hats and misunderstood measurements, just look at You Tube for any of the man on the street interviews that question people's knowledge about common topics like national capitols, political leaders, and national news. 

I find that misunderstanding abstract measurements like you've mentioned is really pretty common. I'll bet that most people don't know approximately what elevation that they're at right now.

Your Grandmother at 90 years old is still interested in subjects outside of her immediate sphere; this is encouraging.  Sometimes the older you get, the more isolated you become, and your world and your worldview gets smaller, to the detriment of all concerned.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: TootsNYC on June 19, 2013, 02:32:21 PM
Thipu, all your examples seem to show that your MIL *is* actually a confused woman. So there's no reason to correct her in order to "fix" other people's perceptions of her--their perceptions would be totally accurate.

Here's the only thing I think you should worry about:

Quote
3) Could this behavior hurt them or someone else?

I noticed this:

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MIL was relieved to learn that a single University in Beijing did not graduate 7 million students this year. 

If your MIL's mistaken beliefs cause her distress (like if she feels that China's sheer size threatens the U.S. and this makes her anxious), by all means, speak up right in the moment and say, "Oh, MIL, you must have misread--China's a big country, but that's way too large a number. Want me to check it for you?"

Otherwise, just leave it.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Luci on June 19, 2013, 03:42:31 PM
I want to be corrected. I want to be coddled physically, not mentally.

Admittedly, I'm 20 years younger than she is, but if I am in my right mind (if I ever am), I'm sure I will still want to get the facts straight. My dad did when he was 92.


Here is one difference that I think it sort of important:

The OP told us (in one of her later posts):

Quote
MIL has always been a little dramatic and ditsy.  When she was in her 60s, people just shrugged these things off as, 'That's just the way she is'.

And again, I think people have given options--but it just seems a total waste of time. MIL is not going to chance; she's always been the sort of person who would vaguely remember the numbers but say them anyway.

I was answering the tone of the thread, which seemed to me to be going in the direction of "They are old and it doesn't matter any more", which made me very, very sad, and I hope I misinterpreted some of what I read. Not everyone said that, of course.

I've only known two people who really 'lost it' before they were in their nineties, and I come from a long-lived large family.

And then I answered the initial question of how to correct someone.

The OP has advice and responded to that advice in her own way. I hope if I reach that age I will be deemed wise enough to be corrected and have my opinion matter. Every case is different, and the amount of confrontation appropriate is different.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: TurtleDove on June 19, 2013, 04:06:12 PM
I was answering the tone of the thread, which seemed to me to be going in the direction of "They are old and it doesn't matter any more", which made me very, very sad, and I hope I misinterpreted some of what I read. Not everyone said that, of course.


The way I read the responses, the age really didn't factor in so much as the concept of "why does the OP care so much that the MIL's facts were wrong?"  To me, I would treat everyone the same - if it is important to correct, I would correct it.  If not, I wouldn't.  To me, the situations presented did not require correction, or could be easily handled with language suggested by other posters (along the lines of "not sure about 10,000 feet but pretty high!" or "I heard 7 million in China as a whole, but yeah, that's a lot!").
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: cass2591 on June 19, 2013, 04:56:16 PM
Quote
We're all concerned that beliefs like this  could get her into real trouble somewhere along the line and refer her to sites like Snopes when we hear about them.  We're even more concerned about beliefs she has that we haven't heard about.

What kind of trouble could she get into? My dad is elderly and legally blind from macular degeneration. He can read, albeit slowly, using a magnifying screen and sends away for all sorts of miracle cures. Sure, it costs a few hundred bucks a year but he can afford it. Now, when he got the idea to go for a "cure" that cost 10,000$ and other really hinky things, we intervened. Luckily, my sister is his POA since he can't read well enough to manage his bills, etc., so we know his financial status.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Thipu1 on June 19, 2013, 05:21:38 PM
We're concerned because some of the ethnic views she comes up with are absolutely vile.  The idea that Obama is the Anti-Christ is mild by comparison.  When MIL forwarded one of these to everyone in the family, a normally shy Grand Daughter in-law took her to task for it in a forceful and eloquent Email.  Other family members came to the support of GDIL.  MIL backed down.     

 MIL is relatively independent now but she won't always be so. We worry what will happen when her well-being may be in the hands of some of  the people she so reviles.

We know we can't really change her but we hope we can convince her to be a bit more circumspect about these opinions.  That's where E-Hell may be able to help us.     
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Yvaine on June 19, 2013, 05:26:30 PM
We're concerned because some of the ethnic views she comes up with are absolutely vile.  The idea that Obama is the Anti-Christ is mild by comparison.  When MIL forwarded one of these to everyone in the family, a normally shy Grand Daughter in-law took her to task for it in a forceful and eloquent Email.  Other family members came to the support of GDIL.  MIL backed down.     

If she's saying racist things, then that's really different from confusing some numbers she read in a random news article (I've surely done the latter, and I'm 35). It sounds like the GDIL and others handled it well.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: AnnaJ on June 19, 2013, 06:01:38 PM
We're concerned because some of the ethnic views she comes up with are absolutely vile.  The idea that Obama is the Anti-Christ is mild by comparison.  When MIL forwarded one of these to everyone in the family, a normally shy Grand Daughter in-law took her to task for it in a forceful and eloquent Email.  Other family members came to the support of GDIL.  MIL backed down.     

 MIL is relatively independent now but she won't always be so. We worry what will happen when her well-being may be in the hands of some of  the people she so reviles.

We know we can't really change her but we hope we can convince her to be a bit more circumspect about these opinions.  That's where E-Hell may be able to help us.     

I've been there - luckily most facilities and private care employees are familiar with this problem and will treat it professionally.  It's unfortunate that this happens - I think all of us here would love to see prejudice disappear - but in my experience caregivers tend to develop an ability to look past the behavior and treat the person.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: SPuck on June 19, 2013, 08:11:01 PM
but in my experience caregivers tend to develop an ability to look past the behavior and treat the person.

I agree with this. You have to trust the caregivers to do the right thing. If your concerns are that great the only option is to take her out of institution and move her into your own home.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: PeterM on June 19, 2013, 08:33:01 PM
We're concerned because some of the ethnic views she comes up with are absolutely vile.  The idea that Obama is the Anti-Christ is mild by comparison.  When MIL forwarded one of these to everyone in the family, a normally shy Grand Daughter in-law took her to task for it in a forceful and eloquent Email.  Other family members came to the support of GDIL.  MIL backed down.     

You really should've led with this. It truly does make MIL look like a fool, where your original examples did not.

Quote
MIL is relatively independent now but she won't always be so. We worry what will happen when her well-being may be in the hands of some of  the people she so reviles.

We know we can't really change her but we hope we can convince her to be a bit more circumspect about these opinions.  That's where E-Hell may be able to help us.     

Does she voice her racist opinions around the people she's insulting? Most racists are at least more circumspect than that, out of self-preservation if nothing else. As others have said, health care workers tend to have thick skins. If she spouts filth to others and gets slapped down for it, maybe she'll learn better. If she won't learn from that sort of negative experience nothing you can do or say is likely to get through to her.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: kareng57 on June 19, 2013, 10:15:24 PM
We're concerned because some of the ethnic views she comes up with are absolutely vile.  The idea that Obama is the Anti-Christ is mild by comparison.  When MIL forwarded one of these to everyone in the family, a normally shy Grand Daughter in-law took her to task for it in a forceful and eloquent Email.  Other family members came to the support of GDIL.  MIL backed down.     

 MIL is relatively independent now but she won't always be so. We worry what will happen when her well-being may be in the hands of some of  the people she so reviles.

We know we can't really change her but we hope we can convince her to be a bit more circumspect about these opinions.  That's where E-Hell may be able to help us.     


Okay, but you've waited until now to come up with this very valid concern.  Honestly, the number of annual graduates from a Chinese university - who cares if she gets it wrong?

Racial views - yes, that's a concern.  But, as others have said, staff caregivers are very used to this.  It's not unusual for dementia patients to express views that they'd have never had in their "previous" life.  Down the road - if she deteriorates mentally - there's almost nothing that you can do.  If you say to her, in the morning, "Grandma, you know that's not a nice thing to say", she'll have forgotten about it a couple of hours later.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: PeterM on June 19, 2013, 11:15:48 PM
Going back a few years, many people believe Ronald Wilson Reagan was the anti-Christ. Same thing about William Jefferson Clinton, and George Walker Bush.

So, I don't see how her saying this about Barack Hussein Obama is racist at all.

That specific example really has nothing to do with the situation and discussing it is likely to get the thread shut down.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: LeveeWoman on June 19, 2013, 11:17:40 PM
Why?
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Yvaine on June 19, 2013, 11:32:27 PM
We're concerned because some of the ethnic views she comes up with are absolutely vile.  The idea that Obama is the Anti-Christ is mild by comparison.  When MIL forwarded one of these to everyone in the family, a normally shy Grand Daughter in-law took her to task for it in a forceful and eloquent Email.  Other family members came to the support of GDIL.  MIL backed down.     

 MIL is relatively independent now but she won't always be so. We worry what will happen when her well-being may be in the hands of some of  the people she so reviles.

We know we can't really change her but we hope we can convince her to be a bit more circumspect about these opinions.  That's where E-Hell may be able to help us.     

Going back a few years, many people believe Ronald Wilson Reagan was the anti-Christ. Same thing about William Jefferson Clinton, and George Walker Bush.

So, I don't see how her saying this about Barack Hussein Obama is racist at all.

LeveeWoman, what the OP said was that the Antichrist example was not an example of what MIL believes, and that what she believes is more off the wall than that. You have misread the post.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: KimodoDragon on June 20, 2013, 08:19:52 AM
We're concerned because some of the ethnic views she comes up with are absolutely vile.  The idea that Obama is the Anti-Christ is mild by comparison.  When MIL forwarded one of these to everyone in the family, a normally shy Grand Daughter in-law took her to task for it in a forceful and eloquent Email.  Other family members came to the support of GDIL.  MIL backed down.     

 MIL is relatively independent now but she won't always be so. We worry what will happen when her well-being may be in the hands of some of  the people she so reviles.

We know we can't really change her but we hope we can convince her to be a bit more circumspect about these opinions.  That's where E-Hell may be able to help us.     

Going back a few years, many people believe Ronald Wilson Reagan was the anti-Christ. Same thing about William Jefferson Clinton, and George Walker Bush.

So, I don't see how her saying this about Barack Hussein Obama is racist at all.

LeveeWoman, what the OP said was that the Antichrist example was not an example of what MIL believes, and that what she believes is more off the wall than that. You have misread the post.

Or ignored it. 

Let's stick to the subject at hand.  I'm sure the OP would appreciate it.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: TootsNYC on June 20, 2013, 08:30:47 AM
We're concerned because some of the ethnic views she comes up with are absolutely vile.  The idea that Obama is the Anti-Christ is mild by comparison.  When MIL forwarded one of these to everyone in the family, a normally shy Grand Daughter in-law took her to task for it in a forceful and eloquent Email.  Other family members came to the support of GDIL.  MIL backed down.     
...
We know we can't really change her but we hope we can convince her to be a bit more circumspect about these opinions.  That's where E-Hell may be able to help us.     

I don't see why this is such a huge problem--it's an appropriate situation, for one of her family to react like that. That might convince her to be a bit more circumspect.

The other thing you can do is not necessarily correct her but to say, "MIL, it's important not to send political emails--that's just unpleasant for the entire family. People get upset. Stick to LOLcats or something."

but in my experience caregivers tend to develop an ability to look past the behavior and treat the person.

I agree with this. You have to trust the caregivers to do the right thing. If your concerns are that great the only option is to take her out of institution and move her into your own home.

Also, many times people with ill-thought-out racist views don't *really* believe them, and they treat those "other races" that they encounter daily with a great deal of pleasantness.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: TootsNYC on June 20, 2013, 08:42:50 AM
(I agree, this concern that we're dealing with here is a very different thing from MIL getting facts wrong on the altitude of the resort.)

The other thing is for each of you to rebuke her each time she says something racist.

And perhaps also to say, "Bad enough that you say this to us--I hope you'll never say something like this to someone who *IS* <insert race/creed/color here>! You would really hurt their feelings!"

Basically keep bringing in the idea that these are *real people* here. And that this topic or that point of view is offensive. You do that every time--behavior modification.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Kiara on June 20, 2013, 08:58:39 AM
Not sure if this would work, but....my mom's dad had a tendency to say things like that.  Our response was always "Granddad/Dad!  You don't say stuff like that!"  If he said he didn't mean it, or it wasn't that bad, we said "It doesn't matter, you DON'T SAY THAT!"

Of course, we tend to be a direct kinda family.  But maybe something short like that?
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Minmom3 on June 20, 2013, 11:30:03 AM
My  mom is a subtle racist, and unless you're family, you won't hear it.  She's friends with anybody, no problem.  Her family marrying into another race?  Problem!  She is moderating as her dementia increases, thank diety!  However, what she still is, is size-ist.  She's a small woman who used to be a tall and thin woman.  She HATES body fat with a fiery passion.  She will, and has for decades, made LOUD comments on how large somebody is, how poorly they chose their clothing, how much they're eating, etc.  Mom has always had a very carrying voice, and there is no question that her target hears the comments.  She used to be impossible to shut up, but that too has moderated as the years pass.  Now I can (and do) tell her that she's being rude, and needs to stop.  And she will stop, for a bit.  She'll start up again after a while, though.  I'm sure she makes comments about me (I out weigh her by 100 pounds...) when I'm not there, but at least to my face she doesn't do that.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: cass2591 on June 20, 2013, 01:36:13 PM
Please leave any references to politicians out of this discussion since it isn't really applicable. Who she is calling an anti Christ is not relevant.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Calypso on June 20, 2013, 02:14:29 PM
Thipu, it sounds to me like you're dealing with two strong aspects of human nature (shared by people of all ages)---one of which is almost impossible to shut down, but the other is one that will, I think, serve your purpose well without you having to take any action.

The first is the universal desire to feel important, part of a select group, to feel in the know. It's why it's so hopeless to try and use logic or reason or facts to talk someone out of their pet conspiracy theory. If Joe is part of a group of 100 people who KNOW that the stoplight turns red when they're in a hurry because the government is tracking them.....all the "facts" I can offer him mean nothing. Why would he want to give up being part of a special group and become ordinary just like the rest of us?

Fortunately, it sounds like your MIL is with-it enough to respond well to another, really strong, aspect of human nature: the urge toward self-preservation. Look how quickly she responded when faced with the threat of her GDIL's loss of respect. She reigned in her behavior, at least where GDIL could see it. I think the same will hold true with caregivers of whatever race. Unless she really loses some of her mental faculties, she'll have enough of a sense of self-preservation to cool it in the presence of people who could
be offended.
And if she can't, it will probably be because she can't---she won't have the mental ability to stop herself---and, as PPs have said, caregivers are used to people in that situation.

I do agree with (Luci, was it?) (my memory! ::)), the PP who said that just because we're older, don't assume we don't want to be corrected.....but the further attitudes you've described, Thipu, sound less like getting facts wrong and more like an emotional stance you're not going to reason her out of.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: TootsNYC on June 20, 2013, 02:54:10 PM
Quote
I do agree with (Luci, was it?) (my memory! ), the PP who said that just because we're older, don't assume we don't want to be corrected..


Ditto, just as an aside.
Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: VorFemme on June 20, 2013, 04:04:27 PM
Or she needs new bifocals or to re-learn where the focal point is on new ones (if she has them).

It might just be that she can't clearly see what she's trying to read.




Title: Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
Post by: Thipu1 on June 20, 2013, 04:59:47 PM
MIL will forward terrible emails to us but, in public, she will always be the perfect lady.

  She will never insult anyone directly but we will learn her true feelings.

At the place where she lives, you can enter a breakfast order at the counter. The order will be delivered to your table. When ours came, MIL thanked the woman kindly and asked about her children.  As soon as the woman was out of earshot we got MIL's true opinion.  'She was very slow delivering our breakfast.  She also has three children and no husband.  That is the problem with these people.  They are lazy and never think about their futures'.

FIL enjoyed buying ski jackets.  He would buy five or six classy examples a year, wear them once and then give them away to family members.  After FIL's death, MIL became a sort of Den Mother to Chinese graduate students at the local University.  They became the recipients of FIL's largesse. 

MIL doesn't do this any more and there are still a good half dozen jackets in the closet.  We suggested that the local coat drive would be happy to have them.  MIL would not hear of this because she doesn't want the coats to go 'to the wrong people'. 

The problem is that MIL doesn't seem to be dead set against any skin color, religion or ethnicity. She just rolls with whatever drops into her mailbox. 

That's why everybody's a little vigilant where MIL is concerned.