Voices of Alzheimer's Caregivers: Part Four

Four Alzheimer's caregivers discuss the sadness of losing their identity.

June 25, 2009— -- This is part four of the transcript from a special roundtable discussion featuring Alzheimer's caregivers. In this section, the participants -- Alice, Maureen, Phyllis and Joe -- talk about the sadness family members face when a loved one with Alzheimer's does not recognize them.

What to Do When Your Loved One Doesn't Recognize You?

JOE: I feel fortunate, my wife knows me ... but your husband ...

ALICE: I'm just, "that woman."

JOE: That's tough.

ALICE: Yeah.

MAUREEN: My mother has a hard time transitioning. ... I become different people to her at different times. If I leave the room and come back, I become a different person. ... All last week, I was my sister. And, yesterday, I was Maureen, and it was fine.

JOE: One day last week my wife said, "I want to go home." I said, "You are, this is your home." And she said, "Oh, no. This is not my home. I want to go home with my mother." And I said, "Well your mother is no longer there. She passed away." And she said, "How about my father?" At times, she's in another world, if you will. But then she'll come out of it.

PHYLLIS: I think that's the hardest part that I'm trying to figure out how to face. Unfortunately, your husband [pointing to Alice] refers to you as that woman. Maureen, you're everybody in your family. [All laugh.] But I think the hardest part I was talking to my neighbor about, our loved one still knows who I am. When a person passes away, you have a tombstone, a head stone or something ... but when the person is still physically here ...

ALICE: That's what's hard.

PHYLLIS: And, my hope, meeting with all of you -- is learning how to deal with all these steps.

ALICE: It's like mourning.

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PHYLLIS: How do you mourn someone who is still alive?

Roundtable Discussion: When Your Loved One Forgets You

ALICE: It's hard, but that's what I'm doing with my husband. I lost him, say, five years ago. We had our 50th anniversary last year, and my kids wanted to do something, and I said, "Why? He's not going to know. ... He doesn't know he's married to me." And I said, "He's gone. My high school sweetheart, he's gone. There's just this person I'm taking care of." I'm trying to do the best I can. But the person I married and lived with for over 50 years is gone. It's sad.

Alzheimer's Caregiver Roundtable Topics

  • Part One: Joining an Alzheimer's Support Group
  • Part Two: Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer's
  • Part Three: Challenges of Daily Living -- Bathing, Dressing, Etc.
  • Part Four: When You're No Longer Recognized
  • Part Five: Tips on Calming a Loved One With Alzheimer's
  • Part Six: The Fear of Inheriting Alzheimer's
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