Understanding Dementia

A Different Kind of Reality

dementia-realityMy friend Dorothy Tucker kept a journal during the 30 years she worked as a nurse in nursing homes and on Alzheimer’s units. I am particularly fond of her take on dementia reality.

She wrote, “Every day when I come to work, I believe with all my heart and mind that I am a nurse who works in a nursing home. The residents have different ideas about who and where I am. If I insist my reality is the only acceptable one, I have no success in gaining cooperation from them. I’ve learned the key is to discover how I fit into their vision of the moment.

On any given day, I can be fifteen or more different people. Sometimes I’m a mama or an aunt. I can be a teacher at school, a store clerk, or a best friend. Sometimes I’m the bully who harassed them on the way home from school.

Once I discover who I am in their mind, I act accordingly. When I’m the bully, I go away until I morph into someone they like better. The fun part for me is that I have learned to really become that person in that place. I feel like their mother, aunt, friend or store clerk. I can actually see the kitchen table with its checkered tablecloth and the cans and jars that line the shelves in the store. I can hear even hear the squeaking chains on a child’s swing. In those moments, their reality becomes my reality.”

If you are caring for someone with a dementia-related illness, you might find that adopting Dorothy’s attitude toward reality might make life less stressful for both you and your care receiver.

If you’d like more information on communicating with people who have dementia, please click on this link:

Sex, Violence and Other Dementia Issues