“They all think I’m crazy.”

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“We’ve got to get out of here!” she screamed. “They are dangerous people and they’re after us! They think I’m crazy but I know the truth!”

It was dinnertime, and Tabitha was upset, to say the least.

If our residents get agitated, (which honestly, wasn’t often) it was usually in the late afternoon.

You may have heard the term “sundowning” before. It’s not really my favorite term but it refers to a person living with dementia who becomes upset in the late afternoon. (It can also happen at any time during the day.)

Why does sundowning occur? It’s often because of a basic need: the person is tired, hungry, overstimulated, or bored.

“They’re after us!” she yelled, pointing at the other residents and staff members in the dining room.

I walked into the dining room and went up to Tabitha.

“Don’t worry, Tabitha, I’m here to help you! Let’s get out of here and go to a safe place!” I said with some urgency in my voice.

She felt heard, because someone was agreeing that the dining room was unsafe.

“Let’s go out here,” I offered.

She stood up, suddenly calmer because we were leaving, and came out into the hallway with me.

I walked with her and talked with her calmly.

“Do you like this painting?” I asked, as we approached a picture on the wall. I asked her to tell me about the picture, and it was a great, soothing distraction.

After only about three minutes, we were ready to return to the dining room. She was calm again, and dinner was ready.

For more on Embracing Their RealityTM, check out my podcast episode here.

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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 three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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