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"Don't you remember?"

If someone close to you has dementia, chances are good that you've witnessed some of their lapses in memory firsthand. Maybe they've just asked you a question that they've asked several times before or they missed an event that's been on the calendar for months. Your response in that moment, as minor as it may seem, can make a world of difference for the individual struggling with memory loss.

People in the early to middle stages of dementia are often acutely aware of their problem with remembering things, and it may be especially frustrating when they forget things that they know they should have remembered. Using a phrase like, "I already told you that" or "don't you remember" can be embarrassing and even distancing for someone with memory loss. Instead, it's often more helpful to step into their world, which may mean ignoring the repetition and answering the question as if you're hearing it for the first time (learn more about that here). If you're worried about a loved one forgetting your name, try not to put them on the spot when you enter the room. Instead of playing the guessing game with them, just announce your presence by saying, "Hi Mom, it's your daughter Kathy" or simply "Hi, it's Kathy".

Making these changes may feel a little different at first, but don't worry about that. If you've caught yourself saying any of these things in the past, it'll take some time to change that habit. Just know that it's never too late to respond to someone with more patience, more grace, or more love. And every step forward is a step in the right direction.

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