Transitions With Jean Blog

Frustration is a reality when dealing with dementia diagnosis.

May 8, 2024

Dear Jean:

A year ago, my wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Our plan is to keep her at home as long as we can. I try so hard, but once in a while, I get very frustrated with her. I know I shouldn’t, but I just can’t get her to understand things sometimes. I don’t know what to do.


Dementia sneaks up on us. Before a diagnosis, the changes are small, but they increase. Eventually, we see enough change that we seek out a professional to verify our suspicions. Even after a diagnosis, we try to keep everything as normal as possible, making small adjustments. You are like many folks; you try to keep your loved one at home and part of the world as you know it.

While you are busy trying to keep their world on an even keel, their brain continues to change a little bit every day.

You aren’t alone in this communication frustration that you describe.

Sheri Fairman, owner of Dementia Care Solutions, explains that people with dementia are like a fish in the water living in their own environment, and you are still watching from shore. The water is their reality. She says the way to understand their world and help you build trust, understanding and improve your relationship together is to “get in the water!”

She calls it the Fish Approach. Fairman helps untangle communication snags that “get us stuck in the weeds”. She shows you how to adjust your responses and learn how to experience the world through the reality of the person living with dementia; how to go for a swim. What a great perspective.

Dementia Care Solutions is a local consulting organization that follows the Teepa Snow positive approach to care. They coach and guide care partners of people living with brain changes. Call or text them at 920-883-5076. Learn about them at I have attended two of their classes and have already learned a new perspective. I feel more equipped to handle the frustrations that come with trying to pull someone into my world instead of jumping into the water with them.

If you want to dive in more, Dementia Care Solutions is presenting a FREE course starting Tuesday, May from 10 a.m. to noon at the Thompson Center on Lourdes, 2331 E. Lourdes Dr., Appleton.  The four-week course will run Tuesdays through June 4.  Reserve our spot by calling the Thompson Center at 920-939-3088. Each course builds on the previous one. It helps care partners develop an awareness of how the brain changes and will help you build your skills so you can support your wife – enhancing the quality of life for both of you.

“Fish don’t like to be out of the water. They flip. They flop. They get anxious and uncomfortable. Pulling someone with dementia out of their reality and into ours can make a situation worse. We need to avoid communication snags.” Jump in, the water is fine.

Jean Long Manteufel writes a column on the first Sunday of each month about life changes associated with aging. Send your questions to or call 920-734-3260.