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When a Loved One No Longer Knows You

Get practical tips on managing this situation for people with Alzheimer’s


This article is based on information provided by Home Instead Senior Care.

Communication is a continual challenge to caregivers of people with dementia. When loved ones lose the ability to recognize you, as well as others, knowing how to respond can be difficult. Sometimes the best approach is to get the facts up front by introducing yourself at the outset of a visit. In other situations, for example, when the person is adamant about speaking with someone who isn’t there, it may be most comforting to bend the truth a bit. The point is always to maintain a good quality of life for your loved one, this can also have the added benefit to you as the caregiver

Consider these approaches when someone with dementia doesn’t recognize you or other visitors

· When someone has reached a stage of no longer recognizing people, or of recognizing some people but not others, it can help for any visitor to introduce him or herself and to explain your relationship. So, for example, you can simply walk in and say, “Hi, Dad, I’m Jack, your youngest son,” and then keep chatting. If your loved one gets agitated or upset by this approach, then you can work the information into the conversation in a more casual manner.

· Another approach is a much-debated technique known as “therapeutic fibbing.” The idea is that holding the truth back from someone with dementia can be a good way to handle a stressful situation. It is best to try another technique first, and then possibly use therapeutic fibbing if other things fail.

· So, if for example, your loved one insists on speaking with a particular person who is not around, you might try redirecting the conversation. You could ask him or her to tell you about her relationship with “this person” and why “this person” is so important. If that doesn’t comfort or distract your loved one, you certainly could try telling her you are “this person.” The important thing with this technique is to make sure you aren’t robbing the dementia patient of the full human experience by protecting him or her from emotions that we all have. Instead, it is about doing what is kind and contributes to your loved one’s quality of life.

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