Fading Memories: What is Athazagoraphobia

Athazagoraphobia is the fear of being forgotten. What a mouthful right? The word itself seems like a jumble of letters you would see floating around in your alphabet soup. Granted, Athazagoraphobia is a severe and debilitating fear of being forgotten- but what family member wants to be completely erased from the life of their loved one?
This is an all-too-common occurrence in the lives of those who have a family member with Alzheimers or Dementia. We have included a few tips to make the visits you have with your loved one more meaningful and less stressful.

1: Timing is Everything
You may not believe it, but there are better times of day to visit your loved one. Plan your visit for the morning or early afternoon.They are more alert, awake and observant. In our field, we have a term call “sundowning.” Essentially, patients with memory issues tend to become more confused or agitated later in the day.If at all possible, visit in the morning when they are fresh, and are not feeling tired.

2: Try Not To Play “Do You Remember…..?”
Most family members and friends play this game while visiting with their loved one. The unfortunate truth is…most often…No. This questions usually brings about painful response for all those around. One thing to keep in mind- Never take memory loss personally. If you begin questions with “I was thinking about….” or “I’ve heard that you….” When you begin with these openers, the person you are visiting is less likely to become overwhelmed or frustrated when they can’t remember what you are asking them.

3: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
No matter how you approach your loved one, there is always a chance they will not remember.  For example, your name is Anne and your cousin’s name is Daisy. While visiting your aunt, she keeps calling you Daisy. Rather than get upset and correct her every time, cool your jets, take a deep breath and be Daisy.

I found this passage to be very helpful

“One of our patients often thought that she was in a bus station. At those times, she was convinced that our common room, with people sitting, watching TV or visiting, was the bus station’s waiting area. She approached the nurses desk (which she thought was the ticket booth) repeatedly, trying to buy a ticket to Danville, her hometown. We could have explained each time she came to buy a bus ticket, that she was in a nursing home, not a bus station. And she would have argued, refused to believe us, and been upset. Or, we could join her in her world and say that the next bus to Danville wouldn’t be here for a couple of hours, invite her to have a seat, and maybe a snack while she waited. We chose to be in the bus station with her. More often than not, while waiting for her bus, she would strike up a conversation with another patient and forget all about the bus trip.”

Losing a loved one is difficult. Especially if they are not really gone. Talking with others who are experiencing the same situation is helpful. Joining a support group or even talking with a friend or family member are great ways to not get caught up in the whirlwind of emotions.

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