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​When a Loved One with Dementia No Longer Recognizes You

27th Sep 2016

Dementia is a term that is broadly used to describe a specific category of diseases that result in the loss of the memory and the potentially rapid deterioration in cognitive/mental functions. This occurs when physical changes take place within the brain. Dementia is considered to be a progressive disease that will worsen as time progresses. 

Patients diagnosed with dementia may progress slowly or rapidly. The progression depends immensely upon the underlying cause of the issue. The most commonly diagnosed types of dementia include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia, mixed dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Watching a loved one advance through the stages of dementia may prove to be exceptionally difficult and heartbreaking. Often, the worst aspect of this situation is facing the fact that our loved one no longer recognizes us.

You Are Not Forgotten

When a loved one with dementia no longer recognizes you, it is important to know and understand that you have not been forgotten. We may experience emotional pain, sadness, and even anger when we are no longer recognized. 

These are all common and acceptable reactions when dementia has caused our loved one to no longer recognize us; however, we must keep in mind that we have not been forgotten. The memories that your loved one has are never, truly, gone. 

They are still tucked away within their mind, and in their heart. The connections that put those memories together with our faces, our voices, and our touch as simply disrupted. Remember, you recognize your loved one. You care for them deeply. You love them without end. Simply continue to love and care for your loved one. They will – at the very least – perceive that they are still loved. 

Never deprive your loved one of social interaction, their comfort, or of the love that they deserve. They may not comprehend that which is occurring around them, but, they are still human. 

By treating them as a person and not simply an illness, you are encouraging them the opportunity to associate you, your voice, and your touch with only positive, loving experiences.

Take Advantage of Images

The dementia patient experiences physiological changes in the brain that detrimentally impact their memories. The problem is, we never know which memories are absent from the conscious mind and which memories are still active in the subconscious mind. 

One way to bring subconscious memories alive to the dementia patient is to create picture books, photo albums, and scrapbooks that outline important people, places, and events that have been relevant to their lives. They may not recognize everything that you include in these visual-based books, but, it is likely that something will trigger their memories. 

In addition to creating visual books of images and other details that may ignite the mind, you may provide your loved one with items that include pictures. 

Examples of these items include keepsake jewelry pieces with images of loved ones, pictures of pets, or even a certain word or phrase that was important. When a loved one with dementia no longer recognizes you, the best coping technique is to provide them with the tools that they need to make connections to the life that they once had. 

Whether it be through a picture album, a framed photo, or picture jewelry pieces, images are powerful and make help your loved one make a connection and recognize you – even if it is just on occasion.