What does it mean to step into someone’s reality?

Feb 16, 2021

In traditional dementia care, there is this school of thought that says you should never lie to someone living with dementia. People use strategies such as re-orientation, re-direction, diversion, distraction and/or validation. Another tool to consider is stepping into their own reality.

At Group Homes Australia, we recognise that there are two realities when caring for someone living with dementia- the resident’s reality and our reality. Our reality is the here and now, who that person is now and their diagnosis. However, for a person living with dementia, their reality could be any point in their life, from their lived timeline, and this can change day to day. They can be stuck in a moment in time, as a child needing to get home for dinner, or a young professional needing to go to work, and even a parent needing to make dinner for their young kids, when in our reality these children are in their mid-40s and live far away.

Entering into a persons reality is the ability to be present in what is real to them in that moment and not force them into our own reality, leaving them shamed and disorientated. Often family will use the phrase “don’t you remember that…?”. Having the ability to step into their reality gives them a sense of comfort and orientation. In order to step into someone’s reality here are a couple of tips:

Listen

Listen for clues of where that person is in that moment in time, of that persons lived timeline. Each day is going to be different, so don’t assume that if they were living in a particular timeframe yesterday, they will be in there today. So listen for cues to be able to identify where they are.

Validate

Validate and legitimize everything they say. If they say they need to go home to make dinner for the kids, your response should be “what do your kids like to eat for dinner?”, instead of arguing that the kids are longer at home and they don’t need dinner made for them.

Be prepared

Be prepared for them to step out of that reality and into a different space. It is not up to you to keep them stuck in a particular timeframe. It is up to you to listen, learn and remain curious.

What’s the timeline that your loved one goes to?

If we can assist with answering any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our Resident Relations Manager for support on 1300 953 196 or email Group Homes Australia Home Support Office.   The Group Homes Australia (GHA) care model is firmly built on the belief that people living with dementia thrive in a home environment. GHA homes are ordinary homes, on ordinary suburban streets, where 6 to 10 residents live together. Residents have 24-hour care, provided by a team of staff that we call ‘Homemakers’.

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