"I didn't eat breakfast!"


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Maddie paced up and down the hallway, looking unusually distraught. Normally, Maddie was in a fantastic mood and always engaged in activities. Today, however, Maddie was upset about something.

She flagged me down and said, “Hon, I didn’t get any breakfast!” 

Normally, I would be alarmed, and go get her a plate, but I had watched her eat all of her breakfast just an hour earlier. We were already completely done with breakfast, and I had nothing left to give her. 

“Hm,” I said. “…are you sure you didn’t eat breakfast?” I asked, not wanting to argue, but rather to double-check how she felt. “Do you feel hungry?” I asked.

“Well, no,” she said. “But I know my body needs something to eat,” Maddie explained, agitated.

This was a tough situation. I couldn’t argue with Maddie, but I didn’t want to give her a whole meal and make it so she wouldn’t eat lunch. That, and I didn’t want to throw off her sugar–Maddie is diabetic. Instead, I brought her a pack of pretzels to snack on. This, though, just made her more frustrated. 

“This isn’t good enough!” she cried. “When is lunch!”

Instead of standing in the hallway arguing with her, I did my best to provide her with a snack, tell her when our next meal was, and apologize that she hadn’t gotten breakfast. “I’m sorry, things must be a mess in the kitchen today,” I said. “I’ll personally make sure you get a great lunch.”

Sometimes, the best solution is to apologize, come up with a reason why something bad happened, and then find a solution. Even if YOU know she ate breakfast, it isn’t your job to convince her.

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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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