September-October 2023

Volume 14, Issue 5


A newsletter for caregivers of loved ones with dementia

Upcoming Education

Fall Caregiver College

October 12 to November 16

Thursdays; 2-5:00 pm


to learn more and to register.

The Fall session begins soon! 

A series of six lectures will be provided for caregivers of persons with memory disorders. Sessions are designed to improve caregiver understanding of different aspects of dementia care.

See the Events and Programs section towards the end of this newsletter for more details as well as the 2024 dates.

Who Are You?


Does she still know you?”  This is a question that’s often asked of caregivers by well-meaning friends. The implication seems to be that if the answer is yes, things must not be so bad…but if the answer is no, that’s a whole different story.  Caregivers may secretly dread the day when their spouse looks at them and says quizzically, “Who are you?”  And many families base their decision about moving a loved one to a care facility on whether the person “still knows us.” 


Being able to recognize family and close friends seems to have become an unofficial unit of measure by which many people assess the degree of a person’s dementia…an imaginary line in the sand that, once crossed, often pigeonholes the person as being completely cut off from those they once knew. When this happens, families may lament that their loved one is “gone” and “no longer recognizes us.”  


Recognition, however, isn’t as black and white as that…especially when we’re thinking about a person whose brain is changing. Have you ever recognized a person’s face but couldn’t place their name? Sure, it happens to all of us. In that moment, you’re able to remember a part of who they are, but not all of who they are. You’re missing some details. 


A person with dementia does the same thing. Because their brain’s memory retrieval system has been damaged, they’re not always able to pull up the whole memory of something – or someone.  Their memories of a loved one are still there, somewhere…but the fog of dementia is keeping them hidden. defines ‘recognition’ as: the process of recognizing something or someone by remembering.  That means that being able to recognize something is dependent on one’s memory – and one thing we know for sure about most people living with dementia is that their memory is on the fritz.


Memory loss from dementia is sporadic, random. A person will remember some things and not others or will remember them today but not tomorrow. Dementia is capricious, so memories can come and go. I clearly remember when my mother forgot – for the moment – who her son (my brother) was. She hadn’t seen him in a year or more and greeted him politely with no indication that she recognized him. They had been particularly close all his life, so the fact that she didn’t know him was nearly impossible to fathom. However, over the next few minutes, she went seamlessly from not recognizing him to being completely oriented, automatically calling him ”son” as she always had. We realized later that she had at first been struggling with trying to reconcile this bald, bespectacled, and bearded middle-aged man to the young version that was in her memory banks. But after a few minutes of hearing his voice and the familiar rhythm of his speech, her brain reset itself.  

This doesn’t always happen, of course. But when a man suddenly asks his spouse of 58 years, “Who are you? Are we married?” that doesn’t mean that he’s forgotten her. It’s simply an indication that, in that moment, he’s not able to get to the details. She looks familiar, but he can’t quite come up with who she is.  After all, if his brain right then has taken him back in time fifty years or so (which dementia often does), this woman probably bears little physical resemblance to the 20-year-old he’s thinking about. So instead of trying to explain, his wife should just respond, with a big smile, “I’m that gorgeous woman you married a long time ago! I’m Ruth!”  Give his brain time to reset. 


Maya Angelou famously said, “I may not remember who you are, I may not remember what you did, but I will always remember how you make me feel.”  Your loved one may not always be able to access the details of you are – your name, your relationship, your role. These are just labels, words, facts – the kinds of things that a brain with dementia has trouble with. But even if they can’t find the details, they can always find their feelings. They can acknowledge that they like you, that they’re glad to see you, and that you’re somebody special.  They are using their heart to recognize you…because their brain isn’t able to.


Make no mistake, that is recognition.


This next story illustrates how a person with dementia can create his own version of recognition:


Martin walks down the hall of the long-term care facility where he lives. He's holding the hand of a six-year-old boy wearing a baseball cap, who's telling Martin all about his trip to the ballpark to see a Dodgers game. Both Martin and the child are obviously enjoying the moment. Then a staff member walks by and says, "Well, who's your visitor?" Martin stops, his smile fades, and he gets a blank look.

He's trying to think how to answer the question.

Martin is in mid-stage Alzheimer's Disease. His memory for language has been ravaged by the disease. Nouns and names that used to come easily to him, words like "grandson" and "Jeremy," are buried somewhere in his brain, obscured by the fog of dementia. He knows that this boy is special to him - he always feels happy when he comes to visit - but he just can't think of his name.

Does this mean that Jeremy is any less Martin's grandson? Does it make Martin any less Jeremy's grandfather, simply because his condition prevents him from remembering his name? 

Shakespeare said "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." So it follows that Martin's grandson is still Martin's grandson, with or without his name. We as humans recognize our loved ones by much more than what they are called. We are drawn to their face, their voice, their heart and soul and being. Take those away and you've taken away the person. Take away merely their name, and the person we love still remains.

So, yes, dementia has destroyed the pathways in Martin's brain that would have led him to the words he needs to answer the question. But because the pathway to his heart is still intact, he is able to come up with an answer that is accurate, relevant, and honest. He breaks into a big smile and says, "This is my boy!"

That's recognition from the heart.


NOTE: you can help a person whose brain is forgetting words and names. The next time you bring someone to visit, instead of saying “Hi Grandpa, do you remember me?” or “Here’s your granddaughter, you remember her name don’t you?” try giving a more helpful introduction: “Hi Grandpa, I’m Emily, I’m your granddaughter” or “Here’s your granddaughter Emily. She’s learning to play the piano.”   

Programs and Events
MemoryCaregivers Network
Peer Support & Education Groups
All MemoryCaregivers Network Support Groups are currently being held online on Tuesdays from 1:00-3:00pm

Network meetings are open to the public. Participants will receive a link via email the day before each meeting.

If you are not currently attending a MemoryCaregivers Network support group, please email to join the mailing list. If you do not use email but would like to talk with a support facilitator, please call Mary Donnelly at 828.230.4143.

For more information about the MemoryCaregivers Network, contact:
Mary Donnelly
The Network relies on charitable support to keep its program going.
Donate Now
Caregiver College
A series of six free lectures will be provided for caregivers of persons with memory disorders. Sessions are designed to improve caregiver understanding of different aspects of dementia care. The course is led by MemoryCare staff members with guest lecture by attorney
Caroline Knox, Esq.

2023 Course Schedule

Thursdays from 2:00-5:00 pm

October 12 to November 16
Register for Fall

2024 Course Schedule

Thursdays from 2:00-5:00 pm


January 4 to February 8

Register for Winter


April 11 to May 16

Register for Spring


July 18 to August 22

Register for Summer


October 10 to November 14

Register for Fall
Until further notice, Caregiver College will be provided as a live-broadcast for online attendance. The ability to access Zoom through a computer, tablet or smartphone with a reliable internet connection is necessary to attend. If you are unable to attend virtually and would need to join in-person, please reach out to us at 828-771-2219 or Related course materials will be provided via email.

We gratefully acknowledge
for their support of our program.

Call 828-771-2219 or email with questions.

Move for Memory
Join us for MemoryCare's Adult Exercise Program, led by Rebecca Carter, PTA. Classes are free and open to the public and will be provided weekly through Zoom for online attendance.
This class is intended for people with memory impairment to participate with their caregiver in fun and simple exercises. The exercises incorporate movements that can improve daily activities and general mobility. Group exercise will be approximately 40 minutes, followed by a time to answer questions. Exercises can be performed standing or seated.
Please note you will be required to read and acknowledge a disclaimer when registering to join. The ability to access Zoom through a computer, tablet or smartphone with a reliable internet connection is necessary to attend. Email or call 828-771-2219 with questions.

Mondays & Wednesdays

10:00 - 11:00 am

 Do you need a program for a group event?  
The MemoryCaregivers Network staff presents on a variety of subjects, including Recognizing Early Warning Signs of Memory Loss, Facts and Fiction about Dementia, Better Communication Techniques, and more. 

We are happy to speak at your event to raise awareness and knowledge about Dementia. Contact Mary Donnelly at
To see a list of 
A special thanks to the sponsors of this newsletter:
Caregiver Network News and The MemoryCaregivers Network are auxiliary programs of MemoryCare. Caregiver Network News is written and compiled by Mary Donnelly.
Contact for more information. 
Subscribe to Caregiver Network News
is a charitable non-profit organization whose mission is three-fold:

To provide specialized medical care to older adults with cognitive impairment;
to support caregivers with education, counseling, and improved access to services; and to provide community education.

We rely on charitable donations to continue these programs!

Please consider donating...
perhaps in honor of a loved one's birthday...
or a memorial...
or a sustaining gift to support families like yours 
who depend on the services that MemoryCare provides!

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Financial information about this organization and a copy of its license are available from the Charitable Solicitation Licensing Section at 919-814-5400. The license is not an endorsement by the State.