Once A Nurse


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Holly spends most of her days talking about her job as a nurse. She is busy with charting, checking on her older adult patients, and instructing other nurses. She does not work as an RN anymore, however, because she has dementia and lives at my community. 

Holly, though, believes that she is still a nurse. She talks about other residents as if they are her patients. She wears her glasses low on her nose, as if she’s been looking through paperwork all day. Holly is soft-spoken, but kind. She is clearly an intelligent, focused woman, who cares about her job. 

I’ve decided to build her a life station with nursing items. A “life station” is what I call the spaces where I set up memorable items: a nursery for baby dolls, an office space with a typewriter, etc. 

The other day I found a stethoscope that our nursing team wasn’t using any longer. I brought it to Holly. “Look what I found!” I exclaimed. 

Holly’s eyes brightened and a smile stretched across her face. “Oh, thank you so much,” she said. “My stethoscope.”

Holly took the tool and instinctively put it around her neck. She straightened up in her chair with a satisfied look on her face.


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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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