Quad Cities, IL/IA

Working with the community... for a healthier community.

A Conversation With Miss Lily


By Marilyn Woelke and Linda Gilman

Clearly, bad weather is upon us. There are seniors who continue to drive though they should not. Perhaps the family is afraid to speak up — they don’t know what to say or they don’t feel that they have any control. They don’t want to embarrass their loved one — the one who has dementia. They want to be respectful and understanding when their loved one expresses frustration or confusion as to why they can’t drive or where their truck is or yells “Why are you being so mean?” As a caregiver, you have a responsibility for the safety of your loved one or the person for whom you work as a caregiver.

Marilyn Woelke and Linda Gilman (Miss Lily) portray the “do’s and don’t” of dementia communication through role-playing in several presentations which they give through Geri-Ed Services. Here is an example of some of ways the above situation could be handled. Let’s say they were having a discussion about the cold, snowy and blustery weather that has invaded the Quad Cities. Miss Lily tells Marilyn that she wants to drive over to the mall.

Poor Communication Method:
Miss Lily: I’m going over to the mall. I need you to give me the keys to my truck.
Marilyn: Lily, you don’t drive any more. Remember, the doctor said you can’t. Furthermore, you don’t have a truck and haven’t had one for years. I can’t let you drive in this weather, anyway. You’d kill yourself!
Miss Lily: What are you talking about?? I been driving longer than you’ve been around and my truck is outside! You can’t tell me what to do… NOW, GIVE ME MY KEYS!
Better Communication:

Miss Lily: I’m going over to the mall. I need you to give me the keys to my truck.
Marilyn: Why do you want to go to the mall on this cold, snowy day?
Miss Lily: Here, look at the newspaper. There are lots of good bargains today.
Marilyn: Miss Lily, I’m so glad you mentioned that. I need a few things and it doesn’t make sense for us not to go together. In fact, let’s take my car. I need to get gas anyway.

This second conversation went very well compared to the aggravation seen in the first. Remember, don’t contradict them or try and use logic. A person with dementia loses that ability. A better method is to try to change the topic or situation to something they will agree with, and be safe doing so.

Marilyn Woelke and Linda Gilman would be happy to assist you if you are having problems at this time of the year. Contact Marilyn at 309-781-6462 or Linda at 309-373-2400.

Photo credit: Willowpix/iStock