Meeting the Person With Dementia Where She Is

Those of us who work with seniors experiencing dementia have long been counseled to meet our patients, clients and loved ones where they are.  If they believe they are still living in the town in which they grew up, we enter into that conversation as if we are there, as well.  Trying to correct the person will only lead to frustration on both parties’ part, not to mention interfering with an opportunity to have an enjoyable and meaningful interaction.

Of course, we want to do this in a way that continues to ensure the person’s safety.  If a gentleman thinks he needs to get up and go to work, we would not tell him not to put on his suit and tie, but we would need to find a way to redirect him when he thinks it’s time for him to get in the car and drive to his former office.

During this past week I had the privilege  of meeting a woman (I will call her Sue) who went above and beyond to honor her mother’s desire to feel that she was still able to keep track of her funds, shop for her own needs and pay her bills.

Sue’s mom had accepted her move to a safer environment and the fact that she could no longer drive.  But she continually struggled with the fact that she did not have any “walking around money” (never mind the fact that, when she did have cash, she would throw it in the trash or leave it lying around the house.)

Sue wanted  to allow her mother as much dignity as possible, while protecting her from financial exploitation or just the waste of precious funds.  In a search of the internet, she found that she could buy the “play money” that banks use to train their tellers.  It is in the same denominations as real money, in the same size and with the same images, so that tellers and other workers who handle cash get the feel  for how to sort it, make change and other required functions. (To learn more about this play money, go to”Train Tellers with Realistic Play Money“).

Sue ordered a “full set” of bills for about $40.00  As could be expected, they didn’t look exactly like our greenbacks, so she was concerned that her mom would think it was a trick.  Sue bleached and washed the bills, ironing some and crumpling others, so that it had the look and feel of real money.  The next time her mom asked for some cash, Sue was able to give her this “play money.”

Sue’s mom no longer goes out on her own, so there was no real risk of these bills entering circulation.  But she now has some cash in her purse, so she can continue to feel like the independent adult she was for so long.

With a little creativity (and a LOT of attention to detail!) Sue was able to meet her mother where she is, while continuing to protect her safety.


  1. Lovely piece, Marcia. Thank you. I’ve read several of your others, too, and much appreciate not only your information, but your obvious care-ing. Best to you in all ways, Joy

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