What I'd Rather Say When People Ask If My Mom With Alzheimer's 'Still Knows Who I Am'
When I tell someone my mom has Alzheimer’s disease, the first thing they usually ask is, “Does she know who you are?”
There was a time when I could confidently answer, “Yes, she does.” People always seemed so relieved to hear that. “Oh, that’s good!”
While it was good that my mom still knew who I was, I wanted to add, “Yeah, but she gets lost in her own house.” Or, “True, but she can’t remember how to put on a shirt.”
As the years went by, that question became harder for me to answer. There were days my mom would look right at me and not know who I was. Or, she would look at a picture of me and not be able to tell me who was in the picture. But, there were also days when she knew exactly who I was.
I would tell people that sometimes she remembered me and sometimes she didn’t. Still, people seemed so relieved to hear that she had not totally forgotten who I was.
While it was good that my mom remembered me at times, I wanted to add, “True, but she has no idea how to get into a car.”
As even more time went by, I had no choice but to tell people that no, my mom didn’t know who I was. They responded with sympathy and sorrow, many times with actual tears. It broke their hearts to hear this.
It broke mine to know there were far worse things than my mom not knowing who I was.
While it was sad that my mom didn’t know who I was, I wanted to add, “Yeah, but she can no longer do anything for herself.” Or, “True, but she can no longer walk and she spends her time sitting in a wheelchair with her eyes closed most of the time.”
There are far worse things about this disease than my mom not knowing who I am. It feels like she doesn’t even know who she is anymore.
It feels like she is basically just sitting around, waiting to die. While this sounds extremely harsh, it is extremely harsh. This disease is extremely harsh.
If I had one wish to wish for one thing for my mom to have back, it wouldn’t be for her to remember who I am. That would be the last thing I’d wish for. She deserves so much more.
Now when people ask me if my mom knows who I am, I have a different answer. One that took me many years to learn.
I tell them, “No, my mom doesn’t know who I am, but she knows me. She knows my heart and my soul and my love for her. She knows my voice and my presence. She doesn’t know I’m her daughter, Lauren, but she knows that she knows me. She knows I love her and she loves me. She knows she’s safe with me. She knows me on another level. Our bond is unbreakable and undeniable. What we have is so much more important than her knowing my name.”
There are far worse things about Alzheimer’s than my mom not knowing who I am, but there are also far better things.
She knows me.
In a way that no one else does.
This story originally appeared on Life, Love, and Alzheimer’s