Reality, TV


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Dorothy sat in front of the television with a few other residents. The entire group was slouched in their respective wheelchairs, sleeping, oblivious to the world around them. 

Dorothy’s eyes were closed, but the TV was on and the volume up loud. She wasn’t paying attention to the screen at all. To make matters worse, this was the first thing that visitors to the floor saw when they walked in. 

The sight looked like a stereotypical dementia unit—people zonked out, unfazed by the world around them—and I hated it.

We had just set up our “Pet Shop” with two pets generously donated to me by Memorable Pets. The Pet Shop was down the hall, and I wanted to see what would happen if we started moving residents there.

I went to Dorothy’s wheelchair and crouched down by her side, gently touching her arm. She woke up and I told her that we were going to go down the hallway. 

As soon as we arrived in the Pet Shop area, Dorothy’s eyes grew wider. I chose the dog from the table and offered it to her. “Will he bite?” Dorothy asked, extending her hands to him. “No, I promise he won’t bite,” I smiled back. 

She took the dog in her arms and put him on her lap. Instead of sleeping in front of the TV, Dorothy was awake and present, gently stroking the dog’s fur. She stayed in the room, happily petting her new friend, until it was time for lunch.

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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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