Embracing their Reality

On September 23, 2021, I listened to former Mary Washington alumni, Rachael Wonderlin’s lecture titled, Everything You Need to Know About Dementia Caregiving Communication. The main concern she brought up was that when people have dementia, they have caregivers and families that wanted to choose what was true for their reality, when in fact, it is the opposite. She mentioned the methods they first teach you when you interact with people with dementia. It’s usually, reorientation, redirection, distraction, and validation. At first glance, these may seem like the only method, since we’re not “lying”, but they’re really not the most effective way to go about it. This is when she opened my eyes to the idea of “embracing their reality” and how it changes the way we interact with them. Honestly, I was not too familiar with dementia and the other diseases that fall under that term. After listening to her explain it, I realized that a majority of the time it’s more of a reality shift for them and when they forget a loved one. It is more so that they don’t know where to place them on a timeline that makes sense.

I thought it was fascinating when the idea of having them lead their reality and you follow. Brutally telling them that they have dementia and constantly reminding them of it is not only demoralizing but ineffective in many ways. The example she mentions was about an older gentleman wanting to go to college and take classes, but the caregivers ignored him and brushed it off as nothing. When she explained what she did by making a fake college sheet with classes, it not only helped the morale of the man but also solved an emotional problem that can’t be physically solved. I thought it great when she pushed the idea of how we understand what is real for them and respond in a way that makes sense to their reality. Of course, caregivers and family members want them to get better and hope that they can regain some memory back, but they are the ones who need our help and the best way we can do that is by embracing their reality.

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