One of the most challenging aspects of Alzheimer’s is when your spouse, parent or grandparent is unable to recognize you or other members of your family. It is hard to fathom that some one you have known your whole life talks to you as if you have just met. It is also hard to remember that your loved one really hasn’t forgotten who you are. The disease has clouded their memories making it difficult to recall your face in the present.
A past resident at The Woodlands Cottage, Becky was the sweetest little lady who always had a smile on her face and lots of love in her heart. Becky’s husband came to the cottage everyday to see his beloved wife. Becky and her husband would eat lunch together and stroll in the cottage garden on beautiful afternoons. Over time Becky’s Alzheimer’s progressed, her memory weakened and she began to have days where she would have a hard time identifying her husband. He would try to soothe her and talk about things they did when they were younger. Whether it was a past vacation or stories about their children, these memories from their earlier years helped to trigger Becky’s memory of her husband. One day while visiting, Becky did not recognize her husband and started to become panicked saying the man in front of her was too old to be her husband. It was a heart wrenching experience for her husband as well. With tears in his eyes, the manager led both Becky and her husband to her room. Asking her husband, to stand where Mrs. Becky could not see him, the manager showed Becky a picture from her wedding day and Becky immediately pointed at the picture and said “that is my husband” The manager asked Becky to tell her about her husband, what he was like and what she loved about him most. The sweet words and precious memories coming out of her mouth led to tears streaming down her husbands face. It was evident that Becky had not forgotten her husband; the disease had simply robbed her from her ability to recognize him at his current age. In her mind she and her husband were newly married and much younger than they were that day.
Parents might become confused when a 30-year-old man walks into their room saying he is their son when they think their children are babies. A grandparent might not recall that they have grandchildren because they don’t think their own children are old enough to have children. It is not that your loved one forgot who you are, they just might be thinking of a different version of you. Maybe a younger you or one with long brown hair instead of short gray hair. Share pictures, stories or memories of a younger you and remind yourself that their love for you has not gone away, it is just stuck in an earlier time in their life.