Let it go (it doesn’t matter if they know you or not) is one of MyAlzheimersstory.com’s most shared pieces. When I posted it on Facebook in January 2020, long-time follower Elizabeth Dunbar shared this delightful story:
My dad knew my essence until his last breath. Labeling and putting people in boxes and pigeon holes is a human convention. Other animals recognize each other without knowing relationships or each other’s history. They just accept.
So whether Dad knew my name or my relationship to him or not didn’t matter to me. I remember going away for a few days about a year before he died. When I returned, I bounced into his room as always. He looked quizzical. I realized he didn’t totally remember me, and I gave him permission to do that.
“I know you’re not feeling well enough these days to totally remember me,” I said. “Is it ok to give you a hint?”
He nodded his assent.
“Well I’m the daughter. One of two children you had. I’m the one that talks a lot!” I joked.
He threw his head back and laughed with tears in his eyes.
”Your name: it’s a Queen,” he said.
“Yes, that’s right,” I said. “I’m Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth.”
We both laughed.
This was a simple conversation we had many times after that. Sometimes I think he was lucid and pulling one over on me, because that would be him. I always treated him like he was my dad, and let him know that any forgetting was simply okay.
I love this story. It’s so hopeful and helpful, and speaks to the power of playfulness and going with the flow. Thank you so much Queen Elizabeth Dunbar.
20 great questions to ask when a loved one with dementia doesn’t recognize you anymore
I love the quote from the “old man” towards the end of the video below. He says:
“When people start stopping, that’s when they start getting old.”
I think the same principle applies to people who live with dementia. I also believe that by “getting to know” people who live with dementia, and understanding who they really are, we can change the negative narrative associated with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) as well as those who live with diseases that cause dementia.
We need to think differently about what it means to live with ADRD, just like the young people in the video change their thinking about what “old” is by experiencing what “old” people can do, and also by learning from them.