Suggestibility & Dementia

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“Anna, do you want to come with us to get some ice cream?” I asked her.

We were going on a bus ride and stopping to get some ice cream. I knew how much Anna loved these trips.

“Oh, yes,” she smiled, getting up from her couch and following me into the hallway. 

Anna sat down next to her best friend, Bella, who was also preparing to go on the trip. Bella was sweet, but she was also a champion complainer.

“Ahh, it’s probably cold outside,” Bella remarked.

“It’s cold out?” Anna asked.

“Yeah, I don’t really want to go out there,” Bella sighed.

Next thing I knew, Anna was back in her room, sitting on her couch.

“Anna, what are you doing?” I asked. “Aren’t you coming with us to get some ice cream?”

“No,” she replied, her frown stretching across her face. “I just don’t want to go, I think I should just stay here.”

Bella ended up coming on the trip. She had a great time, but Anna stayed behind. People with dementia are highly suggestible.

Anna had changed her mind about coming on the trip because someone had told her that it might be cold. I’ve witnessed people with dementia change their minds, their attitudes, and their entire daily mood based on something someone else said. 

It is so important that we have positive attitudes and comments when talking to people with dementia. My residents feed off of my energy. Even if I’m having a bad day, I can’t show it at work. People with dementia are highly suggestible, and they react strongly to the attitudes of those around them.

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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