Looking for ideas on what to say/do when your spouse no longer recognizes you and becomes upset that there is a "stranger" in the home.

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As "stranger," it's probably best to introduce yourself and say, "I am here to get your lunch, " or "I am here to help you get dressed.". Over and over. Every task is brand new. Don't frustrate yourself trying to re-establish memory. Focus on what you and he are doing at the moment.
It must be lonely and heartbreaking for you.
Helpful Answer (8)
Reply to RedVanAnnie
PowerOf3 Nov 24, 2019
After watching some “handling” videos on YouTube you are absolutely right. There’s no convincing them, that’s aggravating to youand if they still have some wits about them they will get scared or angry for not remembering. Re do EVERYTHING everyday upon every approach. Always entertain their fears, always offer to help, There’s even a way to hold their hand that gives them a sense of security and confidence. The videos I watched were invaluable towards my perspective now.
My Husband never said he did not recognize me, he was pretty much nonverbal the last 4 or 5 years, and did not say much the few years before that.
There were a few times when we were at the store and he would start to wander off and I would ask him where he was going and he would tell me he was looking for his wife...I would tell him that I would walk with him until we found her. I would get through the check out line and I would open the car door and he would get right in...
I often joked when he tried to follow someone with long hair in their 20's he was seeing me at that age, when he tried following a heavier woman in her 30's he was seeing me at that age...I just dreaded the day he would start following a gray haired man..(I had cut my long hair very short sort of a Jamie Lee Curtis cut)

So just go with it, don't argue. Just say...Katydid will be back in a little while...As long as you are calm and gentle good chance they will accept the "stranger" without a problem.
The difficult time/decision comes if the person you are caring for becomes violent. Then it is a matter of safety that you either need more help and if medication does not help look into the possibility of placing them in a memory care facility for their safety as well as yours.
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Reply to Grandma1954
RedVanAnnie Nov 24, 2019
I love your strategy of "walking with him until we find her! " Perfect

This timeline can often trigger remembrance, as the person with Alzheimer's "sees" you age. They see you at say, 50, in person. The last photo on the timeline is one that shows you as you look now. As with all the others, your name is under it.

A spouse would probably benefit from starting the picture timeline during the courtship period. Either way, the exercise may trigger in a person with Alzheimer's some understanding of the role you have played in their life.
This exercise does not work for everyone, but the idea that it works for some people is intriguing. This technique may be short lived as the disease progresses, though. Even if this project does not have the desired effect of helping the person understand who you are, the exercise of looking at old photos is still stimulating and often fun for everyone.

Families Cope with Memory Loss in Different Ways
As with nearly everything in life, we all cope in our own way. Some people, while feeling deeply the sorrow of watching a loved one's decline, can still feel they are communicating on some level. The relationship changes, to be sure, but the person with the disease is still "in there," and we just keep working with the loved one in any way possible.

Others are so devastated that they have a hard time even being around someone they love who has changed so much. They do not want to visit a loved one with AD. This doesn't make them bad people, but my personal belief is that when we react in this way, we should do what we can to become educated about the disease or injury and learn how best to comfort and communicate with the person we love.

Don't Give Up on Your Loved One
Doing our best for those we love, no matter what their condition is, for better or for worse, will make most of us feel better in the long run. If we need a support group or personal counseling for caregivers to learn the skills we need to interact with a loved one affected by AD, the payoff from trying to do our best can be enormous. No day will be perfect, and often you will feel as though your efforts really do not count. That is normal.

However, trying does count. Do your best for those you love, even when it is hard. Do your best to learn and grow as a caregiver. You will not regret it.
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Reply to lealonnie1
ArtistDaughter Nov 21, 2019
My mom finds her room by the photo of my dad at her door. The photo was taken when he was 21.
It is so sad this happens, and it does with great frequency. My dad often did not know mom was his wife.. "she's too old to be my wife".. often made her sad, but we knew it was the ALZ. He also called us "you who" a lot.. I was usually thought to be someone he went to high school with... There is probably no good answer, and it is heartbreaking for the family. But he thought he was still in his youth..he even did not always recognize himself in the mirror.
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Reply to pamzimmrrt
katydid1 Nov 21, 2019
My heart goes out to you!! How are you and your family doing?
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Here is an article on this very subject from AgingCare...........I hope it helps!

When a Loved One with Alzheimer's Doesn't Recognize You

Watching a loved one move through the stages of Alzheimer's disease (AD) can be one life's toughest and most heart-breaking challenges. If we had to list examples of emotions by the distress they cause us, at the top of the list would be watching someone we love experience experience physical and mental pain that we cannot relieve. For many caregivers, next on the list at least for many caregivers, would be having to live with the fact that a loved one no longer recognizes us for who we are.

When my family members were residents of a care facility, I asked one of the nurses at the nursing home if my mother-in-law knew who I was. I was aware she could not have told anyone my name or my exact purpose in her life. That much was evident. However, I wondered if she knew that I was there to see her. The nurse assured me that seeing me step off the elevator was a highlight of my mother-in-law's day. I was glad of that. I felt my visiting her was important no matter what she "knew," but it was nice to hear those words from the nurse just the same.

Spouses and adult children of people with AD and other dementias often have to brace themselves for a time when their loved one no longer recognizes them.

Not Being Recognized Doesn't Mean We're Forgotten

The pain of walking into a room and having one's spouse or parent not recognize us can can be hurtful and trigger some strong emotions. Sometimes, adult children especially, will ask, "why should we visit them? Why go through the pain of sitting there, when they don't even know who we are?"

I can only give my own thoughts on this situation as an experienced family caregiver. What I say to people is that their loved one has not "forgotten them." Even though the person may not indicate in any way that your presence is known, it may well be that the touch of your hand, the sound of your voice or even some sense we cannot quantify will get through to this person, somehow.

A Person With Alzheimer's Can Still Feel

It is believed that people in comas often hear conversation around them. If this is so, how can we know for certain what a person locked in the fog of Alzheimer's really does, or does not, understand? I believe in touching people, caring lovingly for them, speaking to elders and treating them as functioning human beings, no matter what their condition appears to be. If you put forward your best effort to treat them in this fashion, they will have perceived whatever they are capable of comprehending. Hopefully, at the very least, they perceive that they are loved. After all, if they perceive more than is readily apparent, we would never want to be responsible for depriving them of interaction, love and comfort that they so desperately need.

Photo Timeline for People With Alzheimer's

With AD, short-term memory is destroyed first. Therefore, while your spouse or parent may not know you as you look today (short-term memory), if you pulled out a photo album showing you 20 or 30 years ago, the person may recognize "you" immediately (long-term memory).

One commonly practiced technique is when people have searched through pictures from the past and made up a timeline of sorts. If, as an adult child, you choose to do this, your timeline will consist of pictures of yourself at various ages, from childhood on. Each picture will have a label underneath stating in large, black type with your name and age at the time of the photo. It is generally good to have your baby picture, a picture of you as a young child, one from your late childhood, your teenage years, your young adult years and so on, until there is a photo showing you as you look now.

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Reply to lealonnie1
NeedHelpWithMom Nov 21, 2019
Very true, Lealonnie

They can feel. A woman in the nursing home when my mother was in rehab there suffered with ALZ. She wouldn’t eat. The home allowed volunteers to help.

So this lovely volunteer went to feed her. The nursing home was short staffed. People constantly called in sick. Others would have to pull double shifts. Anyway...the volunteer wondered if she recognized her at all.

So after visiting with her for several months she asked her, “Do you know who I am?” The woman responded, “I don’t know who you are but I know that you belong to me.”

Isn’t that the sweetest response? The volunteer was very touched by her comment which totally resonates with what you are saying.
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It appears your spouse has Alzheimer's or just Plan dementia Here, dear, And with Keeping him Near...Just softly be patient and you May sadly have to Repeat Over and Over Again, The same thing.....
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Reply to Parise

My grandmother forgot who her husband was and that was it, nothing said or done would convince her that the man she had become attached to at the facility wasn't her husband, in her world he was and the stranger that visited would cause her to become violent, fortunately not physical but whew, my grandmother was a lady before this disease and she could make a sailor blush after.

She was actually okay as long as no one tried to mention grandpa as her husband.

Perhaps explaining that the spouse is a caregiver or staying in the home because of need, just a thought.
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Reply to Isthisrealyreal

A picture speaks a 1000 words.

If your Spouse can still see well enough, Have an Album by his Bedside with Lots of pictures of the two of you together.

Have a Really Huge Picture of the Best one of the two of you together and Put it on the Wall it can easily be seen from his/her bed.

Pictures must be the two of ya'll together, not just single pictures of yourself.

If this doesn't work, instead of getting Spouse upset, just play the role as a stranger hired to help take care of him.
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Reply to bevthegreat

My husband doesn't know who I am but he doesn't get upset I'm here. Sometimes he says I'm his sister and other times he says my name, but doesn't know we are husband and wife. I guess he knows my face is familiar so far. I have no good answer.

Maybe you can just tell him, you're a friend and so and so wanted you to help out until she gets back. Maybe he will accept that or something similar. Also, maybe check with his doctors. Maybe meds need to be looked at again. When I have major problems, my doctor increases Seroquel, its a behavioral type med.

Thanks for the question though, I never know what I might be dealing with next and it never hurts to be prepared! God Bless you down this path. It's a difficult one to follow.
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Reply to Sharonheart1942
katydid1 Nov 20, 2019
I am actually asking for someone else. I work with caregivers, and it breaks my heart when I see the devastation on their faces when their spouse doesn't know them anymore. I tell them to try to redirect their loved one's attention, change the subject, etc...... but it just feels like such an inadequate response to such a heartbreaking thing.
My DH started asking me where Linda was - yes, I am Linda.

I found the easiest way for us was to turn on the light and stand under it for a minute or until he focused on me - then he knew me.

I had already prepared myself to just tell him that I was the crazy lady who took care of him when the need arose - but waiting for him to focus on me worked very well. Then he'd say, "oh there you are!"
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Reply to RayLinStephens

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