Mrs. Washington DC

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“You know, you had everything going for you. You were smart, beautiful, you had it all together, you could have been…Mrs. Washington DC! And now look at you! You started hanging out with the wrong crowd, and you’re going down the wrong path,” she said, very seriously, less than a foot away from me.  

I bit my lip so that I wouldn’t laugh. I was being insulted, but she wasn’t really talking to me, she was talking about…someone. That person just happened, at the time, to be “me,” or whoever she believed that I was. Sandra* was angry because I wouldn’t unlock the front door for her, so she turned me into a person that she’d been angry at in the past for one reason or another. 

This time, what was being said to me happened to be pretty funny. Sometimes, though, someone with dementia will actually insult you. One of the hardest things I’ve had to get used to is letting things go. You can’t take it personally when someone with dementia says something mean. People with dementia can be quick to anger, easily frustrated, and are often confused. Don’t let your relationship with a person who has dementia grow negative because he or she sometimes hurts your feelings. Trust me, your loved one doesn’t mean it.

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Rachael Wonderlin has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. She owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting company.

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