When Aging Parents Forget Who You Are

One of the most difficult things about watching a parent get older is potentially having to see them get a disease like dementia or Alzheimer’s.  These illnesses can be particularly challenging as they often bring with them a degree of memory loss.

One of the more difficult aspects of memory loss is when your parent or loved one begins to forget who you are. The first time this happens can be incredibly jarring and hurtful and figuring out the best way to cope with this can be a challenge.

It is important to remember that there are often several parties involved when a parent starts losing their memory and the situation needs to be handled correctly. Knowing what to do and say can make things a lot easier for both you and your parents.

Here is our advice on how to cope when a loved one begins to forget your name.

You’ve not been forgotten

The most important thing you should remember when your parent or loved one first forgets your name is that you have not been forgotten.

It is easy to feel unloved or forgotten in these situations but your loved one has not forgotten who you are. The sound of your voice or the touch of your hand could bring everything rushing back in a moment and for all of the tough times that may lie ahead, there will be those small moments of recognition that feel incredibly special and that are a reminder that you are loved.

It is also easy to slip into feeling frustrated and resentful. These are perfectly natural feelings to have but it should be remembered that it is not your parent’s fault. You should never give up on them because they are beginning to forget.

Don’t question them

One of the first things a lot of people will do as their parents begin to forget their names is to ask them questions like ‘who am I?’ and ‘do you remember me?’. These questions are designed to bring you assurance but they often don’t help your parent or loved one.

Instead, what tends to happen is they may hit panic mode and simply answer ‘I don’t know’. This can cause a lot of frustration and instead, it is better to just allow them to be themselves and go with whatever they feel as though they are remembering.

They may think that you are a different person or that you are in a different place, and correcting them and asking them too many questions can sometimes cause more harm than good.

Relive your memories with them

One thing it is important to remember if a parent or loved one begins to lose their memory is that they are still the same person that they always were and nothing will ever take those memories away from you.

One thing that can be comforting and that can potentially help bring back their memory is to sit down with them, take their hand and talk to them about old memories. Don’t ask them loads of very specific questions about the memories, instead, ask them broad questions that may help them trigger their memories.

You can also bring pictures and videos with you and show them to them. Once again, it is important not to ask them too many specific questions and to be patient. They may not remember the things that you would like them to but simply by sharing the memories with them you can simply remind yourself how special your relationship with that person is.

You could also buy them a suitable mobile phone for seniors and use it to share photos with them or make notes in an attempt to get them to remember day to day. It also provides you with a way of directly being able to contact them and have conversations that may be able to help you both.

Take care of yourself

One of the most important things you need to do if you are caring for a parent with dementia or Alzheimer’s is to also look after yourself.

When we see a loved one struggling our instinct is to put our issues on hold and to focus on them and that is fine but you also need to take the time to make sure that you are okay. After all, if you are not looking after yourself, how can you look after somebody else?

Taking care of a loved one can be physically and mentally draining, especially if you do not have professional support. Feelings of stress and anger are always going to be present, especially if they can no longer remember you and show no signs of gratitude.

The biggest and most damaging feeling, however, is guilt. When we see a loved one struggling, it is normal to feel guilty if you are still doing things that you enjoy when you are not with them. The reason this can be so dangerous is that this can manifest itself as frustration and resent towards our loved ones.

It is also important to remember that you should never be afraid to ask for help. If you are struggling to deal with your parent’s illness then you should never be too proud to ask for somebody else to help you.

Sit down and talk with your children

The other party that is potentially involved in this issue could be your children. Depending on the age of the child, it may be particularly difficult for them if their grandparents can no longer remember their name.

You should take the time to sit down with your child and explain to them the illness that their grandparents have and make sure that they understand that it is not their fault. It is important to remember that a child’s emotional response to something is going to be very different from that of an adult.

They could feel very confused or even unloved and you should try and find a way to help them first understand, and then deal with any negative emotions they may be feeling.

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