"We have to leave right now.”


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“Let’s go,” she said. “We have to find out where my husband is. We have to go home now.”

Urging her to “please wait” was not working very well. Amelia was intent on going—and she was starting to get agitated. It didn’t help, of course, that she had a UTI (urinary tract infection).

I could not get this 99-year-old woman to sit down. (And, of course, it didn’t help that she had trouble walking by herself.) We worked on activities, we tried watching TV, we tried exercising. Nothing was getting Amelia to calm down.

“He’s coming to pick me up, and then we have to go get in the car and go home,” she pleaded with me.

Suddenly, I had an idea.

I grabbed Amelia’s winter coat, hat, and shoes that were hung up in the other corner of the room. 

“Amelia, let’s get ready to go,” I suggested, offering her the winter coat.

I put the winter cap on her head and put her winter boots on. 

“I want to make sure that we’re ready to go when your husband gets up here,” I smiled. 

“Oh, thank you. Good idea,” she nodded, adjusting the cap on her head.

“Feeling ready” solved the problem almost immediately. She still talked about going home, but it was fewer and farther between requests. 

Amelia knew that I was listening to her concerns, and that I was addressing them properly—even if we weren’t leaving the house that day, or any day after that.

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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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