Hey there Careblazer!
Today I want to talk about the dreaded and heartbreaking experience of your loved one with dementia no longer recognizing you or remembering who you are. We’ve all heard about this possibility. Many of you talk about dreading when that day will come, if it ever does. Some of you have already experienced this.
Today, I want to talk about why it’s actually not usually them forgetting you at all. They still very much remember you. I’m going to break down what’s actually happening when they don’t recognize you, I’ll give you some tips on how to help them recognize and remember you, AND I’m going to share what one amazing Careblazer said was actually MUCH worse than his loved one not remembering him. When I read his words, it was the most heartbreaking, heartfelt, and impactful thing I’ve heard a Careblazer say. But here’s my warning, it’s a tear jerker.
If you would rather watch a video on this topic, click here.
Careblazer, if you haven’t already, there’s a free Dementia Careblazer Survival Guide for you here. It’s filled with helpful information and it’s yours free at the link below.
Okay, let’s get started.
So, when someone with dementia “forgets you” or doesn’t recognize you, it can be heartbreaking and many Careblazers take this as a sign that their loved one must not love them as much as other people they remember or that their memory is so bad, they’ve forgotten who they are.
This isn’t actually correct, especially if you’ve been with your loved one for a long time. Most of the time, what’s happening is that your loved one’s memories are back in a time when you probably looked a lot different than you do now. As dementia progresses, the more recent memories tend to fade before the longer term memories. That means, they may not recognize you with the shorter hair, or grey hair, or different body shape, or with glasses, or all the many ways our looks change over time. They remember you- the you that looked differently at a time in the distant past. This is why you may notice your loved one may recognize you from a wedding day picture or in an old family album but not as the person you look like today.
So it’s not they they have forgotten you at all, it’s that they remember you looking very differently and don’t realize that the you in front of them today is the same you they remember in their mind from year ago.
Some ways to help them “remember” you is to find natural ways to work who you are in your day to day life. For example, looking for opportunities when you can say things like:
“You look as beautiful as you did on the day I married you.”
“Thank you, I’m the luckiest man in the world to have you as my wife.”
“Good morning, there’s my beautiful bride.”
“Oh wow, look at that sunset. It reminds me of our wedding night and that beautiful sunset as we celebrated.”
Perhaps if you are a child, you can work in your relationship to your mom whenever possible, “Good morning, mom”, “Remember when you took me to my first day of school and I was so scared?”, "Thanks mom” and so on. Natural, easy ways to work in your relationship to your loved one.
Now, I’m not going to share his exact words for privacy reasons, but inside my closed FB group (which you can join for free by the way- link is right here), a lovely Careblazer said that he thought the hardest thing to hear was when his wife asked him if he was her husband. To him that was a sign that she had forgotten, like so many people would think. But he said he was so wrong. The hardest part was actually hearing his wife of over 40 years ask him where is my husband, where did he go, why did he leave me? THOSE were the questions that were the hardest to hear because those questions showed this Careblazer that she hadn’t forgotten him at all. In fact she remembered him so vividly that she was in distress that he wasn’t around. Absolutely heartbreaking. Here is the Careblazer, her husband, by her side and she doesn’t recognize him as her husband.
So Careblazer, it’s rarely that they don’t remember you or that they forgot about you. It’s that they don’t recognize you - wherever their memory is at this point is somewhere in the past at a time when you were much younger and looked differently.
Sending my love to anyone going through this. I’ll be back next week Careblazer!