J opened her door and I gestured towards our son, who travels for his work and so doesn’t see her that often. “T!” she exclaimed, in total recognition. T had come not only to visit J but to accompany the two of us to dinner.
I have written before about the difficulty of going out to eat with someone with Alzheimer’s disease who presents with aphasia. I am here to tell you that there is nothing wrong with bringing a friend or relative with you. It certainly makes it easier for me. I have someone to talk with.
It also makes it easier for J. For her, it takes the pressure off. She can listen to the conversation on her own terms and chime in as she sees fit. Having more than one visitor reduces her stress.
The trick for me is paying attention, following subtle cues and giving J an opening when she wants to contribute, and not getting in the way of her make faces at the baby in the next booth if that’s what she wants to do.
It was great that J so clearly recognized our son, T, last week and called him by name. I’m sure that meant a lot to him. I’m not always sure she knows my name these days, although I’m certain she knows I’m someone important in her life. One time when our daughter and I visited a couple of months ago, she introduced us in the dining room: “These are my people.” Our daughter and I still joke we are “the people of J.”
For many caregivers, no longer being recognized by name is devastating. Failure to recognize also evokes discomfort among those without a close connection to someone with Alzheimer’s disease. “Does J still know you?” is the question I’m most often asked.
This is not a great concern for me. I certainly hope J continues to recognize me, but whether she can retrieve my name is not in my or her control. I simply hope to accept whatever comes and not to react badly when friends inquire whether she still knows me. They are asking out of compassion.