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How to Respond When a Senior With Alzheimer’s No Longer Recognizes You

You have been caring for Mom since her dementia diagnosis. You have 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 father or younger brother. 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?

The loss of recognition is among the more painful outcomes of dementia on family members. It’s hard to look into a loved one’s eyes and receive a blank stare in return, or to be called by a different name. It’s essential to set aside your own feelings temporarily, however, while you respond to the individual. (We will come back to your emotions in a moment!)

Simple Tips to Respond to a Senior With Alzheimer Who Displays Recognition Confusion

First, recognize that your tone or voice and attitude are infectious. If you show dismay at the person’s memory lapse, they will certainly feel alarmed as well, though they won’t necessarily understand why. Keep a cheerful, calm countenance throughout 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 talking about past, familiar anecdotes. Long-term memory remains in place considerably longer than short-term memory. For this reason, the person should be able to participate in discussions about their childhood and young adulthood, even though present-day memories have faded.

Finally, make sure 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 people who love them. Talk with a therapist for assistance, and take plenty of time for hobbies you like.

Watching a loved one experience memory loss, including loss of recognition, is heartbreaking. It isn’t possible to “jog” memories lost to dementia by prompting, cajoling, or any other means. The person is unable 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 always to concentrate on the strengths and abilities the senior does still have intact, and celebrate those each day. At The Care Company, our caregivers are highly trained and experienced in creative and positive Alzheimer's care techniques. We are always available to offer additional resources and ideas to assist you and someone you love. Contact us online or call any time at (416) 422-2273 to learn more about our in-home care services and how we can help you during your caregiving journey.

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