If I Tell Him Enough, He Will Remember.

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So many caregivers feel that if they tell their loved one with dementia something enough times, that piece of information will stay with them. 

“Dad, remember to call me every day after dinner.”

“Aunt Nancy, you have to let the doctor see you tomorrow. Don’t get frustrated with the doctor and push him away.”

“Your socks are in the top drawer, mom! That’s where we always, always put them.”

Here’s the problem with this “repetition” line of logic: people with most forms of dementia do not have the ability to store or retrieve new information. 

When you tell your mom with Alzheimer’s, for example, that it is 2:00 in the afternoon, it seems like she understands. Even though she repeats it back to you, and thanks you for the information, the detail does not stay with her.

Her brain is missing a critical piece—she has lost the ability to store new information. Your words go in one ear…and then evaporate. They don’t get stored anywhere. A minute later, mom wonders what time it is. She searches her brain for the answer. The answer is nowhere to be found, so, she asks you again.

“What time is it?”

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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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