The Enneagram is having a moment. You may or may not be familiar with it, but it’s a sort of personality typing system that focuses on the motivation behind why people do what they do. What makes it different from other personality systems is that it focuses on what people look like when they are healthy and when they are unhealthy, and how people can become the best versions of themselves. It is not stagnant, in that it doesn’t just put you in a box and say “this is who you are”. Instead, the Enneagram says “this is who you are now, but this is who you can become”.
There are nine basic types on the Enneagram. I will go through all of them in reference to how each type would respond to having a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Each type will most likely react differently to a hard diagnosis, as well as to what living situations are worked out for their loved one. Memory and memory care are sensitive subjects, and we all have different complicated feelings around them. What you may do in a situation like this is very different than what someone else may do. But it doesn’t mean one of you is wrong, it just means that we as people approach life differently with a different set of motivations in play.
This is another thing that makes the Enneagram so wonderful. It helps us to understand other people and why they do what they do. Maybe you’ve been fighting with a family member or a partner or a coworker and you can’t figure out why you can’t make it work with this person. Well sometimes simply understanding where they’re coming from makes a world of difference in getting along with someone.
So let’s begin. In part one of this article, we will look at the first three types. Here is an overview of three of the basic types on the Enneagram and how each one might respond to a loved one being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia:
Type 1: The Perfectionist or the Reformer: This is the person who wants everything done the right way. They believe there IS a right way to do everything (and it’s usually their way). This person is motivated by the need to be a good person, to have integrity, and to avoid being bad. When faced with a loved one who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, this type might search out all the best treatments, living facilities, and options. They would feel the need to begin organizing belongings and categorizing their loved one’s life.
Type 2: The Helper or the Giver: This is the person who is always being of service to those around them. They are constantly making food, offering rides, or bringing gifts to the people in their lives. The most generous of the types, this person is motivated by the need to give and receive love, and be valued for who they are apart from what they give. When faced with a loved one who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, this type might offer to drive their loved one to the store or to doctor appointments. They will make meals and offer their time to come visit and sit with the loved one as much as possible.
Type 3: The Performer or the Achiever: This is the person who is a rock star at achieving and getting things done. They are charming, friendly, and efficient. Three’s are motivated by the need to achieve, be seen as important, and be valuable apart from the things that they do. When faced with a loved one who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, this type might put together a six-month plan on next steps for the future. They will have this done within the first two days of a diagnosis.
Stay tuned next month for the second part in our series, which will dive into the other six types!