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Re-Kindling Relationships with a Senior with Alzheimer's

by Carole Larkin, Alzheimer's & Dementia Expert
May 10, 2012

Question: When a senior suffering from Alzheimer’s does not recall a person, is it recommended to introduce yourself, even if the result might be upsetting the patient? (i.e.: “I am your wife.” Or “I am your son/daughter.”)

Answer: I think that it all depends on the individual with the dementia. Some people would not be upset learning for the first time (to them) that they had a son or daughter or husband or wife or aunt or uncle, and so on. Others will get very upset being told that they have any of the above because they may think that they are a different age than they really are (usually younger) and they couldn’t be married or have any children because the are too young (if they thought that they were twelve for instance).  Or perhaps they know that they know you, but they are just not sure of how they know you, or if you have a relationship to them. You could start by simply stating your name, as in; “Hi, I’m Emily and I’m a person who (likes) loves you very much.” That way, you skirt around the relationship issue while making them feel good, because someone feels warmly toward them.  It’s about respect for the individual, and not pointing out their deficiencies. It’s not like they can do something to fix their memory loss, so why point it out to them? All it can do is hurt their feelings.

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Carole Larkin MA, CMC, CAEd, QDCS, EICS is a geriatric care manager who specializes in helping families with Alzheimer’s and related dementias issues. She also trains caregivers in home care companies, assisted livings, memory care communities, and nursing homes in dementia specific techniques for best care of dementia sufferers. Her company, ThirdAge Services LLC, is located in Dallas, TX.

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