You’ve been taking care of Mom since her dementia diagnosis. You’ve been working through many of the challenging symptoms. However one day, she looks at you and calls you by a different name – that of her husband or younger brother or father. Do you correct her, reminding her that you are her son? Should you let it slide, pretending you didn’t notice the mistake? Or, should you just roll with it, accepting the new identity she has given you?
The loss of recognition is among the more distressing effects of dementia on family members. It is hard to look into a loved one’s eyes and receive a blank stare in return, or even to be called by a different name. It is important to set aside your own personal feelings temporarily, however, as you respond to the person. (We will get back to your feelings in a moment!)
Simple tips to Respond to Alzheimer’s Recognition Confusion
First, realize that your tone of voice and attitude are infectious. If you show alarm at the individual’s memory lapse, they will certainly feel dismayed as well, though they will not specifically understand why. Keep a calm, cheerful countenance during your interactions with someone with Alzheimer’s.
Next, reinforce that you know who the individual is. Use their name in your conversations, according to their sense of reality. If they believe you’re a brother or husband, for instance, call them by their first name instead of “Mom.” Try talking about past, familiar anecdotes. Long-term memory remains in place much 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, make certain you are prioritizing time to take care of yourself and work through the grief that is inherent in being a caregiver for someone with dementia. Though the person is still alive, the abilities and memories they have lost cause grief to those who love them. Talk to a therapist for assistance, and prioritize pastimes you enjoy.
Watching a loved one experience memory loss, including loss of recognition, is heartbreaking. It isn’t possible to “jog” memories lost to dementia by cajoling, prompting, or any other means. The individual is not able to retrieve these lost memories in the same manner someone who has lost their sight is no longer able to see.
The best strategy is always to focus on the strengths and abilities the individual does still have intact, and celebrate those each day. At Generations at Home, our caregivers are specially experienced and trained in creative and positive dementia care techniques. We are always available to provide you with additional resources and tips to assist you and someone you love. Contact us at 727-940-3414 to learn more about our in-home care dementia services and how we are available to assist you during your caregiving journey.