My Name.

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None of my residents with dementia have ever asked me what my name is. In fact, one of them calls me by the wrong name every day. I’ve mentioned this woman before because she calls me “Susan.” Again, my name is not Susan. Mary-Ann* began calling me “Susan” when she first moved to our community. 

Interestingly, she doesn’t call anyone else Susan. She doesn’t have a name for any other residents or staff in the community, either. No one has a name—except me. 

Mary-Ann, like the majority of my residents, struggles with her short-term memory. This is what’s interesting: she always calls me Susan. While many of my residents recognize me, no one calls me by a name. Somehow, she’s “remembered” that my name is “Susan.” I’m hypothesizing that this is because I look like someone she knew in the past, and that this person’s name was Susan. People with dementia typically maintain, and rely on, their long-term memories for the majority of their lives. 

I feel, oddly, kind of special because I have a name. 

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Rachael Wonderlin has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. She owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting company.

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