Community College.


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Our nurse stopped by my office around lunchtime. “William* is really irritated this morning,” she said. “He keeps saying that he has sign up for community college classes, and he’s apparently been asking people about it all day!”

William is in his 80s, has dementia, cannot ambulate without assistance, and definitely cannot sign up for classes at the local community college. I also happen to know, however, that when William starts on a mission, he needs to feel like he’s completed that mission.

It is so important to embrace his reality and provide him with what he needs: validation and care. It’s not about “lying” or “tricking” him—it’s about understanding his needs as a person with dementia.

We sat in my office and I pulled up a Word document. I looked up the local community college’s logo and pasted it on the blank page.

“Thank you for your interest in community college,” I typed. We grinned as I printed the page and attached it to a clipboard. I walked down the hallway and found William sitting at his lunch table.

“Hey, William,” I smiled. “I heard that you wanted to sign up for classes at community college?”

His eyes widened and he looked up at me with wonder. 

“Here’s the sign up sheet! Just write down what classes you’re interested in and sign it,” I explained.

“Oh! Thank you! You are the sweetest girl!” he cried with happiness. His eyes were bright and he picked up the pen with enthusiasm. “I’ve wanted this all morning! Thank you so much!”

I left the sheet with him and exited the dining room. Our nurse was standing at the doorway. “That was great just to see the smile on his face,” she 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 two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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