You have been caring for Mom since her diagnosis of dementia. You have been working through many of the challenging symptoms. Yet 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’re 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 painful outcomes of Alzheimer’s disease on loved ones. 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 feelings temporarily, however, while you respond to the person. (We’ll get back to your emotions in a moment!)
Simple Tips to Respond to Alzheimer’s Recognition Confusion
First, recognize that your attitude and tone of voice are contagious. If you show alarm at the individual’s memory lapse, they will 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 person 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 speaking about past, familiar stories. Long-term memory remains in place much longer than short-term memory. For this reason, the person should be able to participate in conversations about their childhood and young adulthood, even when present-day memories have faded.
Lastly, make sure you are prioritizing time to take care of yourself and work through the grief that is inherent in taking care of someone with dementia. Though the person is still alive, the abilities and memories they have lost cause grief to people who love them. Speak to a counselor for help, and take plenty of time for pastimes you love.
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 person is not able to recover these lost memories in the same way someone who has lost their sight is no longer able to see.
The very best strategy is to focus on the strengths and abilities the person does continue to have intact, and celebrate those each day. At Home Sweet Home In-Home Care, our caregivers are specially trained and experienced in positive and creative dementia care techniques. We are always available to provide you with additional resources and ideas to help you and someone you love. Contact us online any time or at (866) 229-2505 for additional details on our in-home dementia care services and how we can help you throughout your caregiving journey in Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Paw Paw, and St. Joseph.