You’ve been Mom’s caregiver since her dementia diagnosis, and you’ve worked hard to cope with the symptoms. However, one day, she looks at you and calls you by a different name – that of her neighbor or sibling. Do you correct her, reminding her that you are her son? Should you let it slide, pretending you did not notice the mistake? Or, should you just roll with it, accepting the new identity she has given you? There are so many questions that come with a senior with dementia forgetting who you are.
The loss of recognition is among the more distressing effects of Alzheimer’s on loved ones. It’s devastating to see a look of unfamiliarity or be called by a different name when you look into a loved one’s eyes. It is important to set aside your own feelings temporarily, however, while you respond to the individual. (We will come back to your feelings in a moment!)
Simple Tips for Responding to a Senior with Dementia Forgetting Who You Are
To start, keep in mind that the senior with dementia can feel your tone of voice and attitude. If you show alarm at the person’s memory lapse, they will feel alarmed as well, though they will not necessarily understand why. Keep a cheerful, calm countenance throughout your interactions with someone with Alzheimer’s.
From there, assure the senior that you know who they are. Use their name in your conversations, according to their sense of reality. If they believe you are a brother or husband, for instance, call them by their first name instead of “Mom.” Bring up old, fond memories that you know they love. Long-term memory remains in place a lot longer than short-term memory. As a result, the older adult should be able to take part in discussions about their childhood and young adulthood, even when present-day memories have faded.
Finally, take the time to process the grief that comes with a senior with dementia forgetting who you are. Although the person is still alive, the memories and abilities they have lost cause grief to those who love them. Consult with a therapist for help, and take plenty of time for hobbies you love.
Seeing a loved one lose their memory and recognition is a heartbreaking experience. It really isn’t possible to “jog” memories lost to dementia by prompting, cajoling, or other means. The senior is unable to retrieve these lost memories in the same way that somebody who has lost their sight is no longer able to see.
The best way to handle a senior with dementia forgetting who you are is to focus on the positive, such as the memories and abilities that are still intact, and celebrate those each day. At JFS Care, our caregivers are specially experienced and trained in creative and positive dementia care techniques. We’re always available to provide you with additional resources and ideas to assist you and someone you love. Contact us online any time at 213-383-2273 for additional details on our in-home Alzheimer’s services and how we can help you throughout your caregiving journey.