I'm Not Old Like These People.

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“I’ve made a mistake. I came here once to visit this place with all of the elderly people, but I don’t want to be here anymore. All these old people live here,” Mary* whispered to me.

Many of my residents do not know how old they are. Every once in a while, Mary will become very agitated and demand to go “home” to her parents. 

“My mother will be very worried about me,” she’ll say. “She doesn’t know that I’m here.”

Mary is in her early 90s. Her parents have been dead for decades, but she does not believe that she is anywhere over the age of 25. She will look up and see all of the “elderly people” around her, and she’ll become confused, wondering why she’s there.

Here’s what you don’t want to do in this situation: remind her that she’s 93 and living in a dementia care community.

Meet her at her level and engage her in her reality. 

“That’s okay, Mary,” I replied, touching her hand. “I know it’s strange to spend time with all these old people. I’ll call your mom and let her know that you’re here.”

“Oh, that would be wonderful, thank you,” she sighed with relief.

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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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