Mar 13, 2014

When Persons Living with Dementia Become Funny and Entertaining

George then called his granddaughter and said, “Sandra, I have a job for you. Drive me to the internet!”

Marie Marley
Alzheimer's Reading Room

My experience is that people living with Alzheimer’s can say some pretty amusing things.

Many times the person is aware and even proud he or she has said something humorous. When this happens we laugh with them laugh – not at them.

Soemtimes we are startled or surprised.

These moments can be among the most precious we will ever have with our loved ones.

There is still a lot going on the brains of persons living with dementia.

If you learn to engage a person living with dementia in discussion, you just might be pleasantly surprised.

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Here are some examples:

My first stories are about one of the ladies with Alzheimer’s I volunteer to visit in a local memory care facility. I’ll call her Ruth. Ruth tells me the same story every time I visit her, except she sometimes includes new information or adds a twist to some part of the story.

She tells me that during World War II the Army used to bus young ladies to a base on Friday nights to dance with the soldiers. Ruth was one of those girls. She was a great dancer, unlike many of the men.

She tells me that most of them couldn’t dance and they just “stomped out a two-step.” When she tells me that she imitates them in a most humorous way, lively stomping her feet up and down.

Ruth also tells me that when the girls arrived at the base the men looked them up and down “like they were shopping.”

One of the bits of information she added the last time I saw her was that her husband was an especially bad dancer. “So bad,” she says, “he must have learned how to dance in a barn.”

As I was leaving after my first visit to Ruth, I said, “See you later.” She cracked me up when she said, “Alligator.” So now every time I leave we go through that little routine.

The most amusing event by far was when she offered me a cookie one day. I patted my ample tummy and asked, “Do I look like I need a cookie?”

She said, “Oh, you’re just settling!”

I have examples from Ed, my Romanian life partner of 30 years.

Once he lamented that he had no way to buy a present for my birthday. So he told me to buy something for myself using his credit card.

The next day I showed Ed a beautiful watch I had purchased. We both loved it. I told him it was a wonderful gift.

He immediately asked, “Should I congratulate myself?”

Ed was in the habit of stealing spoons from the dining room and taking them back to his room.

One day I was sitting with him at lunch and told him not to take the spoon because it didn’t belong to him.

He instantly said “Oh no, I take them everyday with no remorse.

Ed had always been a finicky eater, and later on in the course of his disease he needed assistance to eat.

One day when an aide was trying to get him to eat, he finally looked at her with a big grin on his face and said, “I’ll eat it if you eat it!”

Still another time when a different aide was trying with no success to get him to eat, she told him, “Marie is worried you aren’t eating enough.”

Without missing a beat he told her, “If Marie is concerned that I’m not eating enough, tell her to come here and tell me herself.”

I’ll share a final example (one of many) about one of my friends’ grandfather We’ll call him George.

It seems George was having a lot of trouble driving.

He was adamant that he’d never stop, and so his granddaughter, Sandra, disabled his car. He was, however, still alert enough to call a mechanic to come and repair it.

Sandra had assumed he’d do that so she had called his mechanic to ask him to give some excuse for not being able to fix the car.

When George contacted the mechanic the next day he was told “Your car needs some parts that are only available on the internet. It will take a long time.”

George then called his granddaughter and said, “Sandra, I have a job for you.

Drive me to the internet!”
Marie Marley is the award-winning author of the uplifting book,
Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy.
Her website ( contains a wealth of information for Alzheimer’s caregivers.
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Another version of this article was published on the Huffington Post.