Has Mom forgotten I’m her daughter ? Or, has she lost the language skills to define our relationship? Certainly, people with Alzheimer’s do tend to forget us. Even more interesting, I’ve never had an encounter where they are afraid of or indifferent to me. This would seem to indicate that they haven’t truly forgotten me but that they can no longer communicate the same way.
Author & guest Elaine C. Pereira joined me on the podcast to talk about this theory. In preparation for our talk I asked my sister if Mom remembers her. Surprisingly, she does. In contrast I can’t remember the last time Mom used my name.
Theorizing on that disparity in Moms memory brought me to one conclusion. Because of my significant weight loss in the past 6 years, I do not think that I look like the person Mom remembers as Jennifer. In contrast my sister hasn’t changed all that much in the past decade (she’s younger). Certainly this lack of visual clue to our relationship could be a reason she thinks I’m her friend.
Pointing out that language is neurologically complicated, Elaine explained how caregivers can guide their loved one through conversations. Asking, “do you remember” is setting them up for failure. Dodging an answer is one of Moms coping skills. When the neurologist asked questions she did everything she could not to have to answer.
Achieving Positive Communication
Learning how to guide our loved one through their lack of language skills, learning how to lower our expectations is what Elaine teaches. Getting positive communication hinges on how well we set them up to have a conversation. It’s something I’ve been working on with my Mom but it’s still a work in progress.
Learning to communicate on an intuitive level is also something I’ve been working on. Stay tuned for personal episodes on how that turns out.