“Dad, do you remember my name?”

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Oh, please don’t ask him that, I thought to myself.

The old man stood in the doorway, smiling, confused; an uncertain grin, looking at his two sons and daughter-in-law.

“Dad, don’t you remember me?” the one son repeated again.

“He doesn’t know what year it is,” I whispered under my breath, unsure of who I was even whispering it to.

Mel, still smiling, still confused, said, “…You’re all grown up now?”

“He doesn’t know what year it is,” I repeated, this time to one of the sons, the more arrogant one, in an attempt to explain that Mel had no idea why his sons, who he thought were 13 and 15, were now 55+ years old.

“Oh, it’s okay,” the more arrogant son said. He turned to his wife, motioning to the woman. “Hey, dad, remember my…girlfriend?” he asked, winking at me.

It was a little late to play the now-we-are-all-on-board-with-the-dementia-timeline-confusion-game.

Mel was pretty sure that his wife was coming to pick him up, that his sons were young men, and now, seeing his grown, adult sons in his doorway, he was confused. And of course he was! We would all be confused. His sons visited infrequently, and every time they did, Mel was more confused about his own timeline. He didn’t know what year it was. Why would he recognize his grown adult sons when he expected them to be children?

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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