Author Topic: How to Politely Correct an Elder?  (Read 8426 times)

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Thipu1

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How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« on: June 18, 2013, 06:57:44 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?       

LeveeWoman

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2013, 07:02:32 PM »
I'd ignore it because she's doing no harm.

Thipu1

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2013, 07:09:19 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. 

daen

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2013, 07:17:15 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.

TootsNYC

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2013, 07:23:24 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.

« Last Edit: June 18, 2013, 07:42:50 PM by TootsNYC »

TootsNYC

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2013, 07:26:07 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.

Kiwichick

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2013, 07:31:10 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.

JoieGirl7

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2013, 07:38:04 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.

mich3554

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2013, 07:43:16 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.

Thipu1

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2013, 08:07:12 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.   


SPuck

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2013, 08:14:03 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.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2013, 08:15:37 PM by SPuck »

JoieGirl7

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2013, 08:17:27 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.

Kiwichick

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2013, 08:39:44 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. 

Calistoga

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2013, 08:45:32 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.

Thipu1

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Re: How to Politely Correct an Elder?
« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2013, 08:57:59 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.