The Ripple Effect of Assumptions

Assumptions can sting, can’t they? But, we do it all the time about ourselves and others based on the past and what we know about a person. So often, these assumptions are not entirely correct and can limit (or try to limit) a person, preventing them from achieving success, in accomplishments both large and small, from forming deeper connections, from living the quality of life they desire. We stop ourselves. We stop others.
Many assumptions have been made about who I am and what I am capable of doing. Twice something was said by the same person, assuming I am not capable of something because I grew up in the Midwest. They assumed I likely do not have what it takes to become truly successful working in New York in a job that is all about connections and building relationships. They assumed my “Midwest Nice” was a flaw, a point that would make me weak, unable to stand my ground, or know how to communicate with “born and bred New Yorker.” I have had many assumptions about what I can accomplish because of my age, religious background, and political views. I, sadly, am not the exception, but the majority. And I, am guilty of making assumptions as well. I am sure you can find ways where this is true for yourself as well.
In dementia care, these assumptions not only alter the mood or the relationship but a person’s purpose as well. When we assume someone cannot do something because of dementia, we are forgetting all of the other things they can do. We are limiting our creativity and falling into the trap of stigma and stereotypes. When we assume something about someone because of one’s chart, current living situation, or even a first impression, we are limiting their ability to live fully alive. Each person has some control over their life, yes, but no one has total control. We are made to help each other. We have been created to live in service of one another, to help each other live fully alive, and the assumptions prevent the puzzle of life from reaching completion. How often is it someone else that has opened a door so that we might walk through and achieve the next step in living out our purpose? How often has someone aided another to get an interview for that job they want via a letter of recommendation or an internal referral? How often does someone else point out a gift we have to give that we didn’t see ourselves, and once we were able to see it, we went running into it, and it enriched our lives beyond words? When we assume something because someone has dementia, we are preventing these moments in their life. We must work to live beyond the assumptions we make about others and ourselves, and in doing so, explore the richness of this world and our community when we help each other live fully alive.

Published by Kathryne Fassbender

Creative Gerontologist, Speaker, Catholic Innovator. I am also the granddaughter of someone who lived with Vascular Dementia.

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