Do you ever ask someone with dementia if they remember your name? It’s a surprising fact that this happens more often than you might think. The main reason is that when people with dementia lose their memory, they may not be able to recognize the name of a person they know well. They may have forgotten their name but still can recognize the person if they have been in the same place and used the same speech for years. This is one of the main problems faced by carers trying to work with the patient – how do you ask a person with dementia if they remember your name?
The first thing you need to understand is that different types of dementia have different causes. Alzheimer’s is one of the biggest killers in the UK, with a terrible impact on a patient’s daily life. As you would expect, when you lose your memory, you also tend to forget other things too – it can be hard to work out what you used to do, where you lived, and who your family is. As such, if you have a loved one with dementia and he or she has also lost all their memory, then you should never ask them if they remember your name.
If your loved one does respond to your questions though, then you need to work through the conversation. Here are some techniques that could help. First, you need to be careful about what you say. Don’t just ask “What’s your name?” Instead, you need to ensure you use a more respectful way of asking the question. Ask the patient how they would want you to address them, how they would like to be addressed, and why – these are all important questions that need to be answered carefully.
Another technique is to change the words you are using to ask someone with dementia if they remember your name. Many people will think that calling their condition ‘dementia’ will make it less difficult for them, but this is not the case. It causes the condition to become more frustrating for the patient. For example, if you were to ask someone with dementia ‘what is your name’, this will cause them to struggle to find the right words and may even get confused. Instead, you should ask them how they would like to be called, how you would like to hear their name, and ask them why they would want to be called that.
The next thing you need to do is find out as much as you can about dementia and its symptoms. One of the best ways is to visit a local library and check out books about the subject. These will provide you with invaluable information, including the symptoms and what you can do to help the memory. You should read about the different types of dementia and what impact each type has on the patient and their ability to remember. This may mean that you need to change some habits, such as avoiding the stairs when possible or keeping to small areas in your house where you can easily recall things.
Never ask someone with dementia if they remember your name if they are unable to describe it in full. It is important to remember that they may be relying on memory to help them carry out day-to-day tasks, and so you should never assume that they will be able to remember your name accurately. Instead, ask them to give you a brief description of the item. Many people will then try and force the person to use their name, mistakenly believing that they have heard correctly. If this happens to you, try repeating the word as many times as possible, until you can finally get the answer.
It is not only when they can’t remember your name that people with dementia tend to forget who you are. You need to remember that this is an illness and not just a result of a minor memory problem. If you ever attempt to force a response out of them, such as asking them your name when you don’t want to, then you could be setting them up for further confusion. This can increase the risk that they forget what you want to say, leading to more frustrating situations for everyone involved.
Overall, however, it’s simply a question of communication. When dealing with Alzheimer’s patients, it is more useful to try and engage them in normal conversation than to try and force them to remember names. It’s important to keep the focus on the task at hand, and not to become overly intrusive. Remember that these people are not only capable of remembering people’s names, but also of remembering whole stories.