“Knowing” and “Not Knowing” Me Experiences

I’ve found caregivers as well as friends attribute a special significance to those moments when our loved ones fail to remember us. The first time it occurs is especially noteworthy. I remember the first time my mom told me she didn’t have any family. I said, “What about your sons?” She said, “I don’t have any sons.” Looking back it may have been my first wake-up call as to how far along her dementia had progressed.

Surprisingly, I don’t recall exactly when I experienced that same moment with Kate. I know it was two or three years ago. I do recall that it was also a moment that signaled a new stage in the progression of her Alzheimer’s. There was certainly a touch of sadness, but not as much as one might guess. It was something I knew to expect. I just didn’t know exactly when it would happen. I also knew that because she didn’t know me at that time didn’t mean she wouldn’t know me at other times.

Since that moment, there has been a lot of variability in her knowing my name and our relationship. Sometimes she does; sometimes she doesn’t. I don’t test her, but I can often tell when she doesn’t. During the past year or so, she hasn’t known me by name or relationship most of the time. That is different now. It is not unusual for her to call me by name, but it usually occurs spontaneously, especially when she needs something. When she is talking to one of our sitters or the woman who cuts her hair, she often refers to me as “My Boy” or “My Guy” as well as “My Husband.” Sometimes she doesn’t recognize me, and asks me where I am using those same expressions.

As I have noted many times before, she almost always recognizes me as someone who is familiar to her and whom she trusts. That has been changing during the past few weeks or months. Yesterday was one of those days. Between 11:00 and 2:30 when I was finally able to get her out of bed, she didn’t know me at all. I believe that is why it took me so long to get her up. She didn’t recognize my face or my name. She didn’t look frightened, but she was suspicious of me. I should add that she didn’t know her own name. That, too, is very common. There is no way to be sure, but I think that most of the times when she doesn’t know my name she doesn’t know her own as well. It’s as though a switch has turned off in her brain and blocked all the signals for the people she has known best. That includes all of her family members including her parents.

After getting her up, she was perfectly comfortable letting me help her with toileting, showering, and getting dressed. Once out of the shower, she seemed to be less confused although tired. I got her dressed. Then she wanted to lie down on the bed. She rested about ten minutes. The rest of the day went well. I don’t know if she knew her name, or mine, or our relationship, but she responded to me as though she did.

When I got in bed last night, she said, “Who are you?” I gave her my name. She didn’t recognize it. Then she said, “Who am I?” I told her and said that we had met in college and been together since then. She didn’t challenge me. I said, “I’ve always liked you. In fact, I love you.” She held my hand and said, “Me, too.” I doubt that she knew my name or our relationship, but it was a nice way to end the day.

Addendum at 2:00 p.m.

Follow up to my earlier post

I heard Kate say, “Hey” just before 11:00 this morning. When I got to her bedside, she was about to sit up. I said, “I’m glad to see you, and I love that smile. You are very special to me.” She said, “I guess that’s how we’ve stayed married so long.”

I was surprised as this is a time when she is most likely to be confused and not remember me. Even on mornings when she responds to me as though she knows me, I don’t recall her ever saying something that so clearly indicates she knows our relationship. It was a very pleasant surprise. It was also a good indication of how she would feel getting ready for as well as going to and from lunch. She closed her eyes on the way home and is now resting on the sofa.

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