Sierra was inconsolable. When she visited her mother at home, the frail elderly woman did not recognize her own daughter. Even though she understood that her mom suffered from dementia, the anguish of the incident brought the young woman to her knees, crying and sobbing. To her, there was nothing more heart-breaking than when the person with whom she shared the longest and most loving relationship in her life, did not even recognize her face after bending down to say, “I love you, Mom.”
It’s small comfort, and is certainly easier said than done, but families need to realize that their loved one is suffering from a serious degenerative brain disease and one of the primary symptoms is a failing memory. In other words, it is not personal when they don’t recognize a loved one.
Fortunately, there are proactive strategies to help Sierra and other families cope with these situations – and maybe even get some unexpected surprises along the way.
Create a “memory box” for the family member with different trinkets and personal items that may jog their memory – such as a pair of baby booties, a treasured book, an old apron, a favourite piece of jewellery, and old magazine. For a father, you could put in an old fishing rod, a favourite pair of cuff-links or an old shaving brush. These items may be the spark that jogs their memory, helping them remember special times in the past with family.
Photographs, videos and music help people relive their past, like seeing and hearing their story in a mental movie. When the loved one with dementia sees their son or daughter in person plus in a familiar photo, they may connect the dots. Having a colourful name tag and saying one’s name aloud as the photos are shown, could be a very helpful catalyst in recognizing their child. Seeing their face light up like a candle when they suddenly remember is a huge reward.
We know from research that it is possible to traverse the fog and connect with someone with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Sometimes it requires a little coaxing, a little faith, and maybe the occasional miracle. With love and patience, all things are possible!
Join Home Instead Senior Care next month for a free Family Workshop on Tuesday, Oct. 17 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. as Peggy Hancyk shares more ideas and strategies. Call 250-382-6565 to RSVP.