How to Cope When a Family Member with Dementia Does Not Recognize You

One of the most difficult symptoms of dementia for family members to reconcile is their loved one’s apparent forgetfulness of their relationship. For some family members, that memory loss or forgetfulness can feel personal, or like a deliberate disinterest in maintaining familial relationships.

This can be a very difficult period to navigate, and if you are going through it yourself, you should seek guidance from a counselor, therapist, or spiritual leader. If your loved one doesn’t always recognize you or recall your name, or is displaying personality changes or signs of aggression, it’s important to remember that it isn’t personal and it is beyond your loved one’s control.

Here are some of the ways you can cope when a family member with dementia doesn’t recognize you.

Seek Advice & Therapy

Whether you are acting as a caregiver to your loved one or have hired an aide who provides memory care, you can’t take on all of the stress yourself. You need to find someone to talk to who can help you acknowledge and work through all of the difficult emotions that come up.

Talking through these feelings will help you avoid taking your frustration out on your loved one or other family members and friends. If you have noticed you’re having a hard time concentrating at work, you’re on edge at home, you’re having trouble sleeping, or you keep snapping at people, these are signs of stress.

Find a therapist, counselor, support group, or spiritual leader to talk to about the changes in your loved one’s health and memory, and how it has affected you.

Acknowledge the Loss

Acknowledging the loss of the relationship you used to have with your loved one is an important step in moving on to a more healthy coping mechanism. Ignoring or denying the changes in your loved one will only make them harder to deal with as time goes on.

Keeping your emotions in check will end up backfiring, as they will escape at inopportune moments that could affect your relationships with others. If you let yourself grieve the loss of your loved one’s memory and the decline in their cognitive health, you are giving yourself the best chance of staying in a healthy place as you begin the healing process.

Offer Gentle Reminders

If your loved one is having trouble remembering your name or relationship, there is nothing wrong with offering gentle reminders. You may feel frustrated, angry, or sad that you have to remind your loved one, but try not to direct those emotions at them.

You can say something like, “I know you haven’t seen me in a few days, but I’m your daughter, Sarah,” and then move on to talking about something else. If your loved one ends up feeling angry or frustrated, don’t spend too long catering to those feelings.

Instead, try to find a way to distract them so you can focus on something more pleasant. Read from a book, bring out a food or beverage, or just change the subject.

Don’t Blame Your Loved One, or Yourself

Your loved one’s memory loss isn’t a personal attack on you. This can be hard to accept if you’ve had a troubled or rocky relationship with them in the past. It’s important to remind yourself of this fact, however, as it won’t do either of you any good to express your frustrations or anger directly at your loved one. There is nothing that can change the situation, and the only one to blame in this scenario is the disease.

Be Gentle, Kind, & Patient

When your loved one has lapses in memory, the best way to respond is by being gentle, kind, and patient. Reacting with frustration or anger will increase anxiety and will extend the period of agitation. Instead, try to change the subject or refocus their energy elsewhere for a period of time.

If you’re having trouble maintaining your composure or patience, it’s okay to step away and take a break, ask your in-home care aide to take over for a while, or go into another room to take some deep breaths and recenter yourself.

Take Breaks When Needed

One of the hardest things for loved ones to understand when a family member has dementia is that it is okay to take a break. If your loved one is in an assisted living memory care facility, they are in good hands and have around the clock care and access to skilled physicians and experts.

It is okay to take a few days off from visiting so you have time to regroup. If your loved one lives at home with you, it’s okay to hire an in-home care aide or dementia care aide to take over so you can have a much-needed rest. Giving yourself time to recharge and decompress is crucial for maintaining a healthy relationship with your loved one. These breaks are also crucial for your own mental health and sanity.

Try Validation Therapy

If your loved one keeps calling you by the wrong name or mistaking you for someone else from the past, you can use validation therapy to cope with the situation. Ask your loved one about the person they keep mistaking you for.

Ask what they miss about this person, what they look like, what they did with their life, and what they loved about this person. This gives your loved one the chance to talk about something calming and explore good memories, rather than stressing both of you out by trying to force them to remember you.

Use Photos & Videos

Another healthy way to spend time with your loved one and explore your shared history is to use photos and videos to reminisce together. This is also a good memory care exercise. Even if your loved one doesn’t remember very far back, the process may trigger some more memories or give them the opportunity to talk about the past.

Seek Medical Help

If your loved one is experiencing severe personality changes, extreme anxiety or distress, or is acting out violently, it’s time to seek medical help. If your loved one is in an assisted living memory care facility, make sure the caregivers know that something is wrong so they can involve a physician.

If you’re taking care of your loved one at home, this is the time you should consider hiring an in-home care aide or seeking assisted living placement for your loved one. Paranoia and anxiety can affect your loved one’s ability to sleep, and may affect appetite and overall health as well.

Violent behavior can result in an injury to you, another member of your family, or your loved one. A physician may be able to manage these symptoms with medication that will improve your loved one’s quality of life.

Seek Out Dementia Care in Tucson, AZ

If you’re ready to seek out in-home care or memory care in Tucson, AZ for a loved one, contact us today at Placita In Home Care. Our compassionate, experienced care team has been working with dementia patients for years and are very familiar with the behaviors it causes, and how to appropriately respond.

We offer professional assistance with personal grooming, medication reminders, meal preparation, light housework, and socializing and engagement. Our goal is to work with you to keep your loved one safe, happy, and healthy.

We also offer assisted living placement for families who have determined it’s time to move their loved one into an assisted living dementia care facility. Call us today or fill out our contact form online to learn more.