They Call Me Allie.

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One of my favorite things about working in dementia care is building a happy, dementia-friendly environment for my residents. I just started at a new community, and it seems like a really good place. It’s clean and positive, but it’s a blank canvas waiting for me to build on and create.

I was working in the room they had labeled a “quiet space.” I rearranged some furniture and was working to turn it into our new nursery life skills station, complete with a crib and baby dolls.

I heard footsteps enter the room and I looked over to see a woman standing there, observing me quietly.

People with dementia get a bad rap. I am not normally a calm, reserved person, but I find myself being more calm and peaceful when I’m around people with dementia. Some of the best people I’ve met have dementia. The way that they see the world, the ability to live in each moment–it comforts me.

“Hi, what’s your name? I’m Rachael,” I said to the woman.

She smiled. “They call me Allie.”

“What’s your real name? Allison?” I smiled at her sweet response.
“You got it,” she replied.

Allie looked around the room and nodded. “Yes. I like this, I think this looks good,” she said. 

“Thank you, Allie,” I smiled back.

Allie stood there quietly and then began dancing slowly, at first, to the Johnny Cash CD I was playing over the stereo. 

“Look at this,” she said, and suddenly kicked her one leg straight out and up into the air, practically up to her head. She put her leg down gracefully and smiled. 

“I like doing high-kicks,” the 85-year-old woman said, nodding.

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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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