Jul 13, 2010

Did you Change the Way you Dealt with a Person with Alzheimer's Disease Over Time? – Communicating When They No Longer Know You

By Karen Matthews
Alzheimer's Reading Room

One of the most dreaded days for Alzheimer’s caregivers is the day we are no longer recognized as the spouse, child, sibling or significant other.

My mother hasn’t recognized me as her daughter for at least 6 months. In fact, she no longer remembers ever having a daughter. This, however, was/is not the most dreaded day for me. That will be the day that she’s no longer with us.

Forgetting me didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow and painful process (for me). I announced my relationship to her every chance I got so it was me being repetitive. It wasn’t helping but I wasn’t ready to give up my role as daughter. I accepted and enjoyed my role as caregiver but felt it might be a lesser, more diminished role by itself.

Of course, this entire process was all about me. It wasn’t about mom at all. If she didn’t remember having a daughter, how could she possibly miss me? She couldn’t and didn’t miss me and all I was really doing was trying to make her feel like I did…my feelings were hurt and I truly missed my mom.

Once I accepted this and stopped reminding mom of who I was, I noticed a difference in her. I’m not sure if it’s the Alzheimer’s or her poor vision or a combination of both but she believes there is a crew or team of various persons caring for her. She thanks every one of me for cooking, cleaning, laundry, bathing and doing her hair, etc. Sometimes she will tell me how nice the lady is who does her hair or compliments the great cook here. She knows we take good care of her and she knows we love her. She is happy. It doesn’t matter how or if we’re related.

I changed the way I communicate with her. I was a constant reminder of what she could no longer remember and it’s hard to say exactly how it made her feel but I doubt any good came of it. She is noticeably more relaxed now that I’m not stressing her out.

My caregiver only role is not diminished for either of us. It is both enjoyable and emotionally rewarding. I now accept the tips she offers for “good service” because it makes HER feel good...in the past, I refused these tips for my own obvious reasons. But, again, it was all about me and not about her.

Karen Matthews and her husband, Randy, live in Leawood, Kansas and are full time caregivers for Karen’s 89 year old mother, Louise. Karen is a residential real estate agent with Reece & Nichols in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Karen has an MBA. You can visit Karen on her Facebook page.

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Original content Karen Matthews, the Alzheimer's Reading Room