“Get this old lady outta here.”


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“Hey. Hey. Hey! Gwendoline, come over here,” Bethany said.

My name is not Gwendoline, but that is often what Bethany calls me. Bethany is a resident at my dementia care community, and she likes to spend most of her time socializing with other residents near “her” couch.

I went over to Bethany and noticed that another resident, Mara, was sleeping peacefully, her head leaning on Bethany’s shoulder.

“Gwendoline, can you do something about this old lady here?” she asked me, motioning to Mara. “Isn’t there somewhere for old people to go? She’s been sleeping here on my shoulder forever.”

I had to suppress a laugh. Bethany and Mara were probably the same exact age, or perhaps Mara was even a couple years younger than Bethany was.

My residents, so often, have no idea how old they are. It’s actually kind of a beautiful thing: while other older adults have aches, pains, and sadness over the loss of friends and family, my residents with dementia have none of these things. Or, at least, they don’t know that they do. Instead, my residents with dementia believe that they are young and living in a world that no longer exists. Usually, that world is a happy one.

“Sure, Bethany,” I grinned, gently touching Mara’s shoulder. “Hey, Mara, come with me,” I said.

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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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