DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a Black woman who has worked as an urgent care nurse for almost three years. I love my job, and I hope to work in this field for the rest of my life. I was recently assigned to care for an elderly female patient with dementia. I know that it could be her dementia talking, but she has made several racist remarks to me since she’s been in my care. Sometimes she is sweet and relaxed, but if she becomes upset for any reason, she will usually resort to attacking my race. I was told by senior doctors and fellow nurses that this happens often, and all I can do is ignore the remarks unless she tries to harm me physically. My situation seems to be a gray area as far as workplace discrimination goes. How do I ignore such offensive comments?
DEAR RACIST PATIENT: In your field, you are likely to encounter other patients who are rude, dismissive, racist or otherwise contrary. The mother of a friend of mine had dementia. She was the sweetest person before this disease, but then she became hostile. She started cursing, and her personality shifted rather dramatically. Apparently, dementia can affect people in many different ways. It is a disease of the brain. If you are able to ignore her rants, stay with her. Ignoring is probably more effective than challenging her when she says outrageous things, if you can handle it.
Here are more ideas on how to handle meanness caused by dementia, including checking to see if the person has a urinary tract infection: dailycaring.com/7-ways-to-respond-to-mean-dementia-behavior.
If you find that you really can’t stomach her commentary, ask your employer to replace you and match her with someone else.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I hosted a dinner for a relatively small group of people and inadvertently left out two of my friends. I was busy working and planning at the same time, and it was an honest mistake. I know they heard about the gathering because we are all friends. I don’t want them to think
I intentionally left them out. That’s not true at all. I hastily organized this gathering and just failed to include them. They didn’t come to mind, perhaps because we hadn’t talked in a few weeks. I can’t really say. I do, however, want to say something to them because I don’t want them to read anything dramatic into the slight.
How To Apologize
DEAR HOW TO APOLOGIZE: Invite those friends to your next event. Consider creating a small gathering that includes them sometime soon. Make sure they feel welcome and at ease. Spending time with them in that way may be enough for them to see that you care about them. You can also tell them privately that you are sorry you did not include them in the previous event. Make it clear that it was an unfortunate oversight and that you still love them.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.