Seeing your loved one losing their memory gradually can have a profound effect on you. When they forget who you are, however, it feels even worse. Maybe they don’t remember your name, and to them, you are just a familiar face. Perhaps they don’t even recognise you at all. It can be heartbreaking to watch a cognitive decline in a loved one who has dementia. Sometimes, this may be accompanied by agitation, anxiety, delusions, paranoia, or even combativeness. Here are some tips on the best way to handle it.

Acknowledge the loss

It’s okay for you to feel a sense of loss, and it’s okay to grieve for that loss you feel deep inside. Even though you knew what to expect and that there was a possibility of memory loss, you may still have hoped that it would not happen to them.

Remind Them Who You Are

Every time you sense that they don’t recall your name or recognise you, remind them who you are. Introduce yourself and tell them how you are related. Keep in mind that this is simply an illness and not something they are doing on purpose. If they remember your sibling but not you, refrain from taking it personally. It may hurt that you are the forgotten one, but it’s not their choice to specifically forget you.

Always Respond Gently

If you start questioning them on why they don’t remember you while you have been living together for a long time, they may feel agitated or anxious. Instead, respond to them gently, then change the topic to a more pleasant one. If they mistake you for someone else, ask them to talk about that person and what they remember about them. You can both reminisce about that person instead of forcing them to remember you. Look at pictures or videos of the family to remind them of their loved ones.

Ensure They Get Professional Care

If the inability to remember or recognise people is making your loved one feel anxious or paranoid, it may affect how they eat, sleep, or their overall health. Their physician will recommend an appropriate treatment to decrease their distress, and while this may not return their memory, it will enhance their quality of life. Home care services may also be of great help because your loved one will have professionals taking care of them at all times.

Photo: The storyteller by matwiemann licensed under Creative Commons 4.0