My Mom with Dementia Does Not Recognize Me (All she does is Stare at Me)

Seeing your mom’s familiar face but feeling like a stranger in her eyes can be a heart-wrenching experience. Dementia, a condition that affects millions of people, can lead to moments when our loved ones no longer recognize us as their son or daughter. 

In this blog post, I want to explore the emotional journey of dealing with a mom who no longer remembers you. We’ll delve into the nature of dementia, how our loved ones may still hold on to the essence of love, and offer practical guidance on how to navigate this challenging situation.

Why Does This Happen?

dementia patient face

Dementia is a cruel and relentless condition, robbing individuals of their memory, cognitive abilities, and even their sense of identity. It’s not just about forgetting names or faces; it’s an affliction that can unravel the very core of one’s being. 

It’s important to realize that dementia is an illness that your mom is grappling with, and it’s not a choice she has made. So, as painful as it is, let’s accept the reality of the situation and strive to provide the support and love that she needs.

The First Time She Said, “ Who Are You?” 

The first time your mom doesn’t recognize you can be a gut-wrenching experience. It’s like a punch to the gut. You look into her eyes, and she says, “You are not my son or daughter.” It’s a moment that can make you feel helpless and deeply sad. You want to keep a brave face, but it’s okay to admit that it brings you down.

This is the stark reality of dementia. It robs individuals of their memories, and sometimes, even the memory of their own family members. I empathize with what you’re going through because I’ve been there too. It’s important to remember that you are not alone in this journey.

Your Mom Still Loves You

While your mom may not remember your name or your face, what remains is the indelible feeling of love and the emotions you leave her with. People with dementia often lose the ability to recognize people, but they can still sense the emotions that surround them. This means that the love, care, and warmth you show her can leave a lasting impact, even if she can’t recall who you are.

Research has shown that individuals with dementia may not remember the person visiting them in a nursing home, but they can still feel the love and affection. So, when you visit her, focus on the love you can give, even if she can’t remember you as her child.

There’s Still Some Connection Left

It can be disheartening when your mom doesn’t recognize you, but she may still perform actions that reveal a connection. For instance, when a friend or relative visits her at home or in a nursing home facility, she might not recognize them. 

However, she might pull out a wedding album or a birthday album, or do something that creates a link between her and that person. This is how people with dementia often function. Their memories might be hazy, but they still have moments of clarity that reveal their true selves.

When you meet your mom and she doesn’t recognize you, it doesn’t mean that there’s no connection left. She might offer you a hug, a kiss on the cheek, or a glass of water. These actions are her way of expressing affection, even though she may not remember you.

What to Do About It

1. Understand That It’s Not About You

When your mom fails to recognize you, it’s essential to understand that dementia is responsible for this change, not your actions or your relationship. Dementia can alter a person’s perception and memory. She may not recall your name or your relationship, but she may still remember the love and emotions you’ve shared. This understanding is crucial for maintaining your own emotional well-being.

2. Focus on Emotions Over Memories

People with dementia may lose the ability to remember specific details, but they often retain the capacity to experience emotions. When interacting with your mom, prioritize creating positive emotional experiences. For instance, engage in activities she enjoys, like listening to her favorite songs or reminiscing about cherished family moments. Even if she can’t recall the specifics, the emotions associated with these activities can provide comfort and connection.

3. Encourage Meaningful Activities

In some cases, your mom may not recognize you but may exhibit behaviors that indicate a connection. She might pull out her wedding album, a birthday album, or engage in activities that hold a special place in her heart. Encourage and participate in these activities. They serve as bridges between her past and her current reality, allowing you to connect on an emotional level.

4. Be Prepared for Unpredictable Reactions

When your mom doesn’t recognize you, it can be unsettling, but it’s important to be prepared for unpredictable reactions. She may offer you a hug or a kiss, extend a gesture of hospitality by offering water or a beverage, but still not remember your identity. These small acts of kindness demonstrate that her heart recognizes you even when her mind may not.

5. Avoid Forcing Recognition

One of the most crucial pieces of advice when dealing with a loved one who has dementia is never to force them to remember who you are. Insisting on recognition can lead to frustration and distress for your mom. Seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can still experience emotions like embarrassment or shame, so pushing the issue can do more harm than good.

For instance, a friend shared a story about her dad, who had dementia. When she pressed him to remember her, he became agitated and anxious. Instead of feeling closer, they drifted apart emotionally.

6. Respect Their Emotional State

In moments of confusion, it’s vital to respect your mom’s emotional state. If she gets distressed or agitated, it’s essential to be patient and empathetic. Dementia can make everyday tasks overwhelming, and too much information or pressure can exacerbate the situation.

7. Keep It Simple

When trying to communicate with your mom, especially if she doesn’t recognize you, keep your interactions straightforward. Avoid overwhelming her with lengthy explanations about who you are and why she should remember you. This can lead to confusion and frustration. Instead, stick to simple, reassuring statements and focus on being present.

8. Maintain Consistency

Consistency can provide a sense of comfort for someone with dementia. Repeating your name and your relationship gently and patiently during each interaction can help establish familiarity. While she may not remember in the moment, this repetition can contribute to a sense of continuity.

9. Connect with Professional Help

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be emotionally and physically challenging. It’s essential to seek support from professionals who specialize in dementia care. This can include memory care facilities, support groups, and trained caregivers. These resources can provide valuable guidance and assistance to ensure that your mom’s needs are met.

10. Cherish the Moments of Connection

As you navigate the challenges of a loved one with dementia not recognizing you, it’s crucial to cherish the moments of connection, no matter how brief or fleeting. Dementia may steal memories, but it can’t take away the love and affection that you both share. Embrace these moments of connection and allow them to provide solace and strength.


Dealing with a mom who doesn’t recognize you due to dementia is undoubtedly a challenging and emotional journey. Remember that while she may forget your face and name, she still holds the capacity to feel love and connect with you on an emotional level. Be patient, be kind, and cherish the moments you have together.

In your journey with your mom, what strategies have you found helpful in creating a connection despite her memory loss? How have you coped with the emotional challenges it brings? Please share your experiences and insights in the comments section below.

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