Stop trying to “convince” them

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Logic and dementia don’t mix. What does that mean? It really means that using logic to “explain yourself” to someone with dementia won’t work out well. So, saying to someone with dementia, “But you can’t eat lunch, because you already ate lunch” won’t compute. They don’t remember eating, they still feel hungry, and they think you’re making it up!

And then what happens? You fight. No one wins, and everyone is mad.

Don’t convince. Just EMBRACE THEIR REALITY.

“I want my pills,” Molly said. “Can you bring me my pills?” she asked a nearby staff member.

“I already brought them to you, you had your pills this morning,” the staff member replied kindly.

“No I didn’t, I want my pills now,” Molly shook her head.

“But I already gave them to you…” the staff member started.

“Hang on,” I offered, walking over. “I have a solution,” I said to the staff member.

“Hey, Molly, I’m going to bring you your pills in a little bit!” I smiled.

“Okay, thanks,” Molly said, and went back to eating her lunch.

Instead of arguing or attempting to use logic with this resident, I embraced her reality. Trying to “convince” her that she already took her medicine wasn’t going to work: she didn’t remember doing it, and so it didn’t happen.

I decided to get into her world and tell her the truth of her reality: that she’d be getting her pills soon. Of course, I never brought them to her, but hearing a positive confirmation calmed her down immediately.

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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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