Forgotten, in a manner


Mom was admitted to hospital for a brief illness, and I was visiting her.

“Hello, how are you today?”

“Hello. My daughter just went off.”

I wasn’t expecting that. “It’s me. I’m your daughter, Mom.”

She looks uncertain, and then, “No,” she says, “My daughter, she just went over there. Can you go and get her?”

I knew she had an earlier visitor, but hadn’t realized she thought that person was me, or so I hope, if she still remembers she had a daughter like me. So I decided to go along, “Oh, she’ll be back in a while.”

It’s really strange and unexpected.

At home, we never go to Mom and ask her, “Do you know who I am?” We assume all is fine if we get a cheery Good Morning! or Hello! The routine exchange of greetings, the signs of familiarity, the ease with which Mom navigates to her regular chair; surely all is well.

Or maybe the problem isn’t Mom, but me. Maybe I’m forgettable. Really.

I once went back to a workplace after a gap of a year. There were a few familiar faces at work that day, but they could not recall me. “Did you work here before? When? Really? No, we can’t remember you” they said. It gave me a turn and my heart pounded. I had a fleeting thought of “Twilight Zone” and then I wondered if I had caused offense and was being purposely “forgotten”.

On thinking back, I think it could be because I was task focused and did not get to know these colleagues personally, or they were task focused and did not see me. Or the turnover of staff was so high that those who stayed did not bother to keep track and remember those who had left.

Whatever, I think I can accept being forgotten. It’s the forgetting I’d rather not have.

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19 thoughts on “Forgotten, in a manner”

  1. I remember the first time dad didn’t know who I was. I’d been reminiscing with him about when he kept bees for honey. He suddenly asked how I knew all the things I was remembering – clearly not knowing I was his daughter. The other occasion was when it was my birthday and I asked if he remembered the night I was born. “Why would I remember that?” he asked. I said, “Because you’re my dad.” He laughed. It was very disconcerting. Thankfully, it didn’t happen all the time.

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  2. That is very difficult. My mom still knows who I am, although a couple times she talked about me in the third person when I was visiting her. She also goes into the occasional fugue state where she simply stares wide-eyed at me as if I’m (and everyone else around her, I think) is an alien, and doesn’t speak.

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  3. I suppose there is a fine line between no one remembering your faults and no one remembering you. You are quite remarkable in my book. Don’t take it personally with your mother, you know she is ill. Doesn’t it seem funny (ok, not ha-ha funny) that you are the functioning adult in the relationship with your mother now? When you were small, she was the functioning adult. Not every child gets the opportunity to care for their parent. Try to think of yourself as one of the fortunate ones.
    (this is not a joke!)

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  4. Hi. I don’t know your name so I cannot say “Name” thank you for sharing on your blog. I saw the link on Kate Swaffer’s blog. She and I met a little while ago and have been sharing comments back and forth. I too am part of a caregiver team and have been for twelve years for my life partner Gregory. He and I have been together for 40+ years! Here is my reply (which I also shared with Kate.) In response to a recent blog (Click here to read. Opens in a new window.) by fellow blogger Kate Saffer I wrote:

    Wow Kate. This blog of yours as prompted by “Dementia, Caregiving and Life in General” hit home several times. Forgetting vs Being Forgotten. Anticipatory Grief vs Phobia. During the last very difficult year of transition for Gregory, I never once asked him to tell me my name. I was so afraid he would not remember. Your are right. Anticipatory grief. Eventually, I think I asked for name verification only once and he failed. I refused to ask again because I am terrified of the results.

    Recently when I arrive for my daily visits, he will look at me a little longer before recognizing me but then again he has had trouble focusing on things for maybe a year or so. So I stand at what I have learned to be the correct distance, I speak loudly (which I usually do, being used to teaching a classroom of 200 :-), and sometime repeat, “Hi. It’s me! Hey I’m here! I love you! Look at me!” Sometimes I will say “Look at me in the face,” sometimes twice or three times and he will be able to eventually do that and he will smile at my presence.

    Sometimes I realize that he is too distant in contemplation and instead of forcing him to respond, I either come back later. Sometimes I shower him with kisses and either he receives them, waves them away, or ignores them. Having acted however, I feel successful in having announced my arrival.

    More often than not he gets very exited to see me, he laughs, or reaches out for a kiss and hug. Once in a while (I usually melt when this happens) he will say something like, “Oh my Michael. My Michael.” That is enough for me.

    My Dementia/Alzheimer’s blog (if I may) is http://mhorvichcares.blogpsot.com

    Being a teacher of young children, you get used to not getting reinforcement for the work you do, rarely do you discover what your efforts turned into. So you get used to giving yourself compliments, knowing when you did a good job, sometimes knowing when you failed and trying to learn from it, but basically learning how to self reinforce. You get used to never seeing a finished product in your student. So that ability I have developed helps with Gregory, I do a lot of self reinforcing. In fact when others reflect on “how good I am” I get embarrassed.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your story, Michael! You’re a wonderful caregiver!
      Like you, I look for the emotional response, and it’s often okay when the words don’t match. And always, always, pat ourselves on the back.

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  5. Your last sentence struck such a chord with me. I can deal with being forgotten, if Mum doesn’t know who I am, but I’d rather not to have to deal with the forgetting. The problem is that having such a close relationship with dementia, we can’t help thinking about both sides of the equation. I hope your mom is back home soon. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  6. It’s not you, it’s the disease. If you take some with Alzheimer’s out of their most familiar environment (e.g. from home to hospital), the extra demand on their attention, means that other already fragile systems fail. Hopefully, back at home, she will know you. You did exactly the right thing; whatever her current beliefs, going along with them will mean less anxiety for her and less stress for you. best of luck.

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  7. I hope your mom is better now. My hubby still knows who I am but he has forgotten some family members and friends. I wonder if there will be times when your mom will remember you again. It is such a complex and puzzling disease. Some days my hubby won’t know what something is and then another day he may know but then he forgets again. I go along with most of what my hubby does too so as not to upset him because if he gets upset the dementia takes a dive. Keeping you and your mom in my thoughts and prayers. Hugs

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