Those with dementia sometimes seem to live in a world from decades ago. They may perceive objects or voices that aren’t visible or audible to us, or converse with people we know are long dead. To those of us without dementia, they may seem to have lost touch with reality. Hence some approaches to dementia care emphasize “reorienting them to reality.” For example, correcting someone with dementia by saying, There is no alligator in the room, so don’t be scared. Or, Now calm down, your father died fifty years ago. He is certainly not shouting at you. These attempts at “reorienting to reality” often feed a person facts from our own sensible world, and they manipulate feelings through commands such as Don’t worry, Calm down, or There’s no reason to cry. As a result we may lose this person, disconnect from them and label as ‘unreasonable’ or ‘irrational’. While for them their worry, upset or fear are a living reality. A reality we could relate to simply because each one of us is worried or scared at times.
Perhaps not everyone sees alligators in the living-room, nor argues with their dead relative. But we all have a need for safety, fairness and peace. By replacing the ability to reason about facts with the ability to connect to the universal human needs, we meet one another, despite dementia.