Different Realities (Community story)

Community story

By Paddy Spruce © Dementia Care International

Paddy Spruce CSP, internationally known speaker, MC and corporate trainer, shares the insight he gained into the different realities experienced by both people who have dementia, and all of us, through Jane Verity’s editorial Truth or Lies – Crossing the Reality Divide.

Dear Jane,

I read a lot. Most of what I read seems to be filed somewhere for future access. Some of what I read is immediately useful and applicable. Your article on Truth or Lies – Crossing the Reality Divide has made a significant change to my thinking in many areas of my work and life. I am a professional speaker, corporate trainer and consultant and work with large organizations around Australia. I also have a mother with early signs of dementia. Let me tell you how your article has made a difference to my thinking processes.

I have always believed in telling the truth as I know it. I have never understood the justification for white lies. Something about the end justifying the means, I think.

Recently I was taking my mother for a drive and she commented on how she used to enjoy visiting a certain restaurant with my father. In truth, the restaurant didn’t exist when my father was alive and my father didn’t go to restaurants. Before reading your article, I would have kindly told her that she was mistaken. Having read your article, I paused and tried to identify the unmet need that she was speaking about. I understood that she had found an ingenious way of telling me that she was feeling lonely, regretted losing her independence, missed her husband and didn’t enjoy the food at her retirement village. If I had corrected her apparent mistake, I would have missed these underlying messages.

Some days later, my wife and I were about to leave the house to go out for a meal and she said, ‘Are you going to wear those pants?’ I immediately paused again and thought of the underlying message. I obviously was going to wear the pants as I had them on and was walking towards the car with every intention of keeping them on.

So now I understand deeply that there is my reality, the reality of the other person and hopefully, a shared realm of emotional needs. I know that if I discount the reality of the other, nothing will be achieved. If I identify and work with the unmet emotional needs, there is every chance of both parties being satisfied. This applies equally with people who have dementia or clients, customers, friends and family.

Thank you for opening my eyes to a third perspective and a way of meeting the needs that lie between two differing realities.

Paddy Spruce CSP