Pulling a DJ

On Thursday, Lyn had her weekly bowling session.  She had a really good time bowling, as usual.  She always enjoys herself when she's at the alley.  She thrives on the competition and the socialization even if her scores are all over the place as you can see.

Lyn's respite provider was out of town so Mom stayed at the alley and waited for Lyn to be done.  The care providers, usually other mothers, tend to sit and chat while they watch their athletes practice.  Another mother who has known Lyn since middle school approached Mom to inquire about why Lyn's no longer working.

Mom explained that Lyn has been diagnosed with dementia.  Prior to that, Lyn was struggling with work as her interpersonal relationships with her coworkers was becoming more and more of a problem.  Looking back on the various incidents, I believe we were witnessing the onset of the dementia and the subsequent changes in personality that it can bring about but we didn't have any idea that dementia was the cause of the problem.

Lyn struggled more and more to complete the tasks that were part of her job such as wiping down the tables, sweeping the floor or refilling the toilet paper rolls in the bathrooms of the Wendy's restaurant where she worked for 19 years.  Not only were the tasks being done to a less and less satisfactory level, but she would butt heads with particular coworkers and felt they were out to get her fired.  More than once, she'd come flying out of the restaurant at the end of her shift in tears saying that someone was mean to her.  Things escalated until she quit at the end of a particularly challenging day.  Lyn actively resisted her team's attempts to get her back into the workforce.  Those attempts ended with the dementia diagnosis.

After hearing Mom's explanation, the other mother said that Lyn needed to be kept busy because "probably the problem is she has gotten lazy."

Now, I have to stop here and interject a bit more about Lyn.  Lyn, despite all her failings and her challenges, cannot be described as lazy.  She never could be described that way.  She, even now, leads a more socially active life than I lead.  If there is a task at hand, she's quick to offer up assistance.  Need the groceries brought in from the car?  Ask her.  You may not even complete your sentence before she's moving.  Need to deliver a plate of cookies to the firemen?  She's your Girl Friday.  Need to have a turkey carcass cleaned after Thanksgiving dinner?  She won't leave a scrap of meat on it.  She's always wanted to help and basks in the positive words you give as a result.

Mom pointed out that being lazy isn't the problem.  Lyn has regressed and is no longer able to be trained much less (re)educated.  The other mother stated that since Lyn "is so high functioning she knows how to play the game and get what she wants."  We can all agree that's true in some situations.  However, the level of acting that would require, day in and day out, is not something Lyn can maintain.

What struck me about this conversation between two mothers is that this lady was taking the same approach as the neurologist.  Both had made up their mind.  In this case, the mother had made up her mind before even approach Mom.  She was looking to create an opportunity to say that she believes Lyn is lazy instead of listening and weighing the evidence placed before her.  We call this "Pulling a DJ" in my family.

DJ, may she rest in peace, was my step-grandmother.  DJ had perfected the skill of appearing to look at you but instead looked through you because she didn't feel you existed in the same world as she existed. She would appear to listen only to reveal later that, despite hearing every word you said and verbalizing responses that made you think your meaning was being conveyed, your words didn't matter in the slightest because you, ultimately, didn't matter.  Your issues were of no concern to her and so she didn't trouble herself with you.

When someone pulls a DJ, it is tremendously difficult to get them to focus, really focus, outside themselves long enough to begin to understand.  It can happen and I'm always an optimist hoping it will. Unfortunately, in the case of the neurologist and the other mother, it didn't happen.


  1. I couldn't fathom the reaction (from the other mom) when I read this. I cannot believe the other mom said that. She obviously doesn't know Lyn very well. I wonder if she has ever heard the expression, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all." Yes, its a problem. Many people truly believe they are experts about everything and express that. Also, I wonder what is the longest she has ever held a job? Hmmm.


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