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“And a one, two, a one, two, three, four,” Tabitha counted out. Her feet tapped rhythmically across the floor as she counted out her dance steps. She swept an unruly piece of hair out of her eyes as her shoulders moved in time with her feet.

Her cane was meant for walking, but mostly Tabitha used it for dancing. “Da, da, da, ta, da, da,” she sang. And then, “Listen! I need six women up here on this line!” she called out to her audience.

Tabitha’s audience was a group of women in wheelchairs. Her enthusiasm, however, was unwavering. “When I was on Broadway, everybody knew you had to work early and stay late,” she explained to a staff member.

Tabitha was a perfect example of a person with dementia who lived in her own reality. In Tabitha’s world, she was still a dancer, and she was proud of this fact.

No one ever tried to convince her otherwise, either. “Tabitha, can you teach me some dance moves?” I asked her. “Sure, honey, now look at this one,” she offered, gliding her feet across the carpet to a tune that no one else could hear.

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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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