“I don’t really remember it, but I know it’s there.”

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We were playing a “fill in the blank” game. I had gathered six of the residents in the front hallway of the Skilled Nursing Facility, in the hopes that more would join as they walked by. My little trick worked, and soon I had 10 people gathered around, engaging in the game.

This fill-in-the-blank book is one of my absolute favorite things to do with people who have dementia. It never ceases to amaze me how many of the residents can recall lyrics, sayings, or phrases that they know. Sometimes, a lyric will even inspire everyone to start singing.

Julia stood next to me. She was a thin, pleasant woman of 86 years old. Julia loved dancing, which I had recently learned, and particularly loved anything with a fast beat. 

Julia’s dementia was fairly progressed, so it was challenging to hold full conversations with her. She always responded to your questions or comments, but sometimes the response was about something completely off-topic.

In this game, however, Julia was a master.

“You ain’t nothin’ but a…” I started.

“Hound dog!” the group said, and Julia, faithfully on my left, also added quietly in my ear.

“A penny saved…” I started. 

“Is a penny earned,” the group responded.

Julia touched my arm to get my attention. 

“I don’t really remember it, but I know it’s there,” she said, pointing to her head.

What a great way to describe the complexities of dementia care, I thought.

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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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