Alzheimer’s Communication Lesson #2 – remember, don’t “remember”
Alzheimer’s Disease is famous for its impact on memory. Words, experiences, and people slip from the mind. We helpful friends and family fill in the gaps by saying “remember” this “remember” that, “don’t you remember”?
Remember comes in many flavors.
The incredulous. “Don’t you remember that we are going out to dinner tonight?” Aimed at someone wearing a paint-splotched sweatshirt.
My life has less anger without the incredulous “remember”. R loves that sweatshirt, and he wouldn’t wear it to dinner. “Let’s get dressed up” gets us ready, “remember…” gets us stuck.
The Scolding. “Remember I told you to pay the electric bill”
Stuff is going to happen, sometimes the lights are going to go out. Ideally, it doesn’t happen when you just returned from the airport with your visiting in-laws. Even then – especially then – the “remember” lecture doesn’t improve the situation, or turn the lights back on.
The sad. “Don’t you remember me?”
This will slip out. Sometimes we can’t stop ourselves, others we can. My mom will often say “here’s our daughter Pam.” Or, looking at a picture, “that’s our family at the beach”. My father may or may not remember me. I am grateful when he responds to me. Adjusting to being less remembered is a struggle, as if I, myself fade a bit when I am no longer remembered.
The important. “Let’s remember.”
Part of my journey is to do the remembering. To remember the full person of R, our adventures, what brought and kept us together.
I can remember with, rather than at, R. “Remember that time when I woke up in the middle of the night and thought I had gone blind because I couldn’t see anything? I was panicked, and you said, Pam, you’re not blind, it’s just dark.”