Yesterday I knocked on mom apartment door. When she answered, I held out her mail, and said, “
The mail lady is here!” She smiled at me and said, “Oh, thank you.” She paused, looked at me for a second, and then turned to go back into the apartment. There was no invitation to enter with her, no opening the door wide enough for two, no hug… It was only when I said, “Mom, can I come in?” that she looked at me again, had a spark of recognition, and said, “Oh, of course!” This was a first.
My daughter explained that because mom wasn’t expecting me, and didn’t have any social triggers until I asked if I could come in, she simply couldn’t make the jump to who I was without context. Her brain isn’t working fast enough. It’s like there isn’t enough band width.
My kiddo told me, for the first time, that when mom was in skilled nursing on the Island, a similar thing happened to her. My daughter greeted her grandmother in the dining room. My mom didn’t know who her granddaughter was until I came in and gave my daughter and hug and kiss. With context, mom knew who her granddaughter was.
Further, my girl let me know that when a dementia patient doesn’t know who you are, in a profound way, they will ask “Who are you?” This information was somewhat reassuring, but this experience was one I didn’t expect for years.