Let them lead, and you follow

Sponsored by Memorable Pets

Use code RWONDER for free shipping (up to $50 of shipping costs) on your next order! Click the Memorable Pets logo here to start saving.

Let’s face it: dementia care is hard. Honestly, it’s often harder for caregivers than it is for the people with dementia, especially in later stages of the disease process. 

No one “wants to lie” to a loved one with dementia, but that’s why I always tell families to take the word “lying” and throw it out the window. When you get caught up on the word “lying” it makes it harder to be the best possible caregiver. It makes it hard to live in dementia world.

Embracing someone’s reality and “living in their world” is a lot easier when we recognize that people with dementia aren’t doing or saying things to annoy us. They aren’t being difficult to make our lives more complicated: it’s just how the disease process is. The best way that you can live in someone else’s world is to let them lead and then you learn to follow.

For example, I had a resident once named Sophie. Sophie’s daughter was obsessed with the idea that her mother thought her father was still alive. “I keep telling her the truth!” she’d say to me. “Mom deserves to know the truth that he’s dead!”

I told Sophie’s daughter to try something new: ask Sophie where she thought her husband was. 

“When she says, ‘Where’s dad?’ ask her, ‘Where do you think he is?’ and then go with that answer,” I explained.

Sophie’s daughter had a hard time with this at first. “But what if she says he’s at work? What am I supposed to do, agree with her?” she grimaced.

Yes. Agree with your loved one with dementia. Allow them to guide you, even when it’s hard, and you need to learn to follow along.

Sophie’s daughter didn’t have to get creative and come up with an answer to her mother’s question. Instead, she just asked her mom a question back, and then agreed with the answer. When her mother asked again ten minutes later, she had a perfectly acceptable answer: “He’s at work.”

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

rachael photo

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.

16 things poster
Get the FREE “16 Things” poster!

16 Things I Would Want If I Got Dementia

Get the FREE “16 Things” poster for your personal use—or better yet—your dementia care community’s staff break room!

I wrote this poem years ago, but to date, it’s the most popular piece I’ve ever created.

16 things poster