The man who mistook his wife for…another woman

dementia by day ekit

Get Dementia By Day's most popular eKit

Check out our most popular item, the Embracing Their Reality(TM) eKit and find out why we took the time to get the phrase trademarked! Learn what makes Rachael Wonderlin different from any other dementia educator out there. Also available: the new Embracing Their Reality(TM) downloadable graphic, only in the eStore! Click the graphic or visit "Shop" above!

“You’d better let me in her room,” Bill said sternly to the nurse outside the door. “That’s my wife in there.”

The nurse was giving Bill a hard time. “That’s not your wife,” she argued back. Of course, this made Bill even more angry. “How would you know what my wife looks like!” he demanded.

Indeed, that was not Bill’s wife in the room next to his. In fact, Bill’s wife was still alive and visited him often. When Bill’s wife came by to visit, he greeted her kindly. “This is my wife,” he’d tell people, smiling. When she left, his wife was living next door to him. 

Bill had, essentially, created a duplicate copy of his wife. Really, the two women looked nothing alike. With dementia, though, often all you need is one defining characteristic that two people share for confusion to happen; for example, both these women were very thin—and that was it. 

What I see, more often than not, is that residents with dementia will create duplicate copies of their spouses. It does make some sense: if they are used to seeing a spouse every day (even if that person died years earlier) they now see a new person every day, often right next door. Often, too, that other resident believes that they are married, as well. I’ve seen numerous “couples” spring up, based out of the fact that both people think the other person is their significant other.

I intercepted the drama happening outside Bill’s door. Steering him away from this argumentative nurse, I touched Bill’s shoulder. “Hey, Bill,” I said. “Why don’t we wait over here for your wife?” I guided him to a nearby sitting area. “Thank you,” he sighed. “That’s a good idea.”

We waited for his “wife” to come out of her room, and they walked down the hallway together, hand in hand, until his real wife showed up.

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Your email address will not be published.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
Shopping Cart