Originally written for Alzheimer’s Reading Room.
When you work in dementia care, people tend to ask you a lot of questions. Probably one of the most common questions that I hear is,
“Are you afraid to get dementia when you’re older?”
Honestly, there are many things that scare me much more than dementia does. Don’t get me wrong: dementia is a terrible group of diseases. I’ve been fortunate, however, to see many of the beautiful moments that people with dementia can experience.
Just in case I do get dementia, I’ve written a list of rules I’d like to live by.
If I get dementia, I’d like my family to hang this wish list up on the wall where I live.
- If I get dementia, I want my friends and family to embrace my reality. If I think my spouse is still alive, or if I think we’re visiting my parents for dinner, let me believe those things. I’ll be much happier for it.
- If I get dementia, I don’t want to be treated like a child. Talk to me like the adult that I am.
- If I get dementia, I still want to enjoy the things that I’ve always enjoyed. Help me find a way to exercise, read, and visit with friends.
- If I get dementia, ask me to tell you a story from my past.
- If I get dementia, and I become agitated, take the time to figure out what is bothering me.
- If I get dementia, treat me the way that you would want to be treated.
- If I get dementia, make sure that there are plenty of snacks for me in the house. Even now if I don’t eat I get angry, and if I have dementia, I may have trouble explaining what I need.
- If I get dementia, don’t talk about me as if I’m not in the room.
- If I get dementia, don’t feel guilty if you cannot care for me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s not your fault, and you’ve done your best. Find someone who can help you, or choose a great new place for me to live.
- If I get dementia, and I live in a dementia care community, please visit me often.
- If I get dementia, don’t act frustrated if I mix up names, events, or places. Take a deep breath. It’s not my fault.
- If I get dementia, make sure I always have my favorite music playing within earshot.
- If I get dementia, and I like to pick up items and carry them around, help me return those items to their original places.
- If I get dementia, don’t exclude me from parties and family gatherings.
- If I get dementia, know that I still like receiving hugs or handshakes.
- If I get dementia, remember that I am still the person you know and love.
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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16 Things I Would Want If I Got Dementia
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I wrote this poem years ago, but to date, it’s the most popular piece I’ve ever created.