Not Recognising family


Registered User
Nov 14, 2006
Has anyone experienced this please. My mother is at a stage that she doesn't recognise any of us. The fear in her is evident. She goes through a hysterical couple of hours looking for her children, but we are grown-ups now, but it makes no difference. She has started to pack the kitchen knives in her handbag, is this for protection in her mind, I really don't know. Her specialist does not believe in drugs, so any tips on how to settle her or to help us cope with the total pain of not being able to help her. Tips would be grateful.



Registered User
Jan 31, 2004
near London
Sounds awful.

I'd be speaking to another specialist, or at least re-visiting your present one, to explain the situation. I find it helpful never to assume what anyone will say in a new situation - please don't assume a 'no' from your current specialist.... ask them and if they do say no, then try elsewhere.

good luck

Canadian Joanne

Volunteer Moderator
Apr 8, 2005
Toronto, Canada
Brucie's advice is very wise and appropriate. Please see the specialist again & question him closely about drugs. Explain the situation in detail. Drugs need to be carefully monitored but they can be useful, especially for fear and anxiety.

If you're not satisfied, perhaps another doctor would be a good idea.



Registered User
Oct 28, 2005
Cambridgeshire UK
Hi Val,

I'd be speaking to another specialist too!

My husband knows me but he doesn't see his daughters much and doesn't recognize them now. He ignored his younger daughter when she visited a few weeks ago and I showed him a photo of his elder daughter which he has in his room at the home and asked him who she was and he said "I can't remember his number". I suppose he only recognizes me because he sees me regularly.

Steve used to get the knives out of the block when he was living at home, I found them all over the house. All I could do was to move them and keep them in a place he didn't look. I don't think it was for any other reason that they just do strange things sometimes, he also used to sellotape the cutlery together and put it round the kettle too. Just part of this terrtible illness.



Registered User
Mar 12, 2005
West Sussex
I agree with the others about seeing the specialist again.

With the looking for "lost"children, we have had this with Mum and currently she is looking for her sister who did go missing 40 years ago.

With both these situations we always go along with her worries.........we told her the missing children had gone next door for tea or were at school and she accepted that.

Now she is looking for her sister and we tell her the truth, she was found safe and well and will visit Mum soon, that seems to work too.

It must be so frightening for the sufferer.

I remember the sheer panic one afternoon when Mum went walkabout and was missing for quite a while, I was frantic.

Our loved ones must be feeling the same, but have no idea what to do about finding them.

Hope this phase soon passes, for all your sakes.


Grannie G

Volunteer Moderator
Apr 3, 2006
Hi Val, whether or not your mother`s specialist doesn`t believe in drugs, he doesn`t have to live with the trauma for your mother, of looking for her lost children, or the trauma for you of having to witness it.

I would definietly seek a second opinion.

Dementia in itself is scary enough, but looking for lost children who are there in front of your eyes, and carrying knives round, surely warrants help and intervention.


Registered User
Mar 7, 2004
Several of the ladies in Lionel's care home go looking for their children.

Sometimes they do not want to sit and eat, but the staff are so patient with them.
"It's your favourite today" or "It's Sunday and the buses don't run again until tomorrow" etc.

I know it is so much easier in a controlled enviroment, but it is certainly nothing unusual. Do hope you get some help soon.


Registered User
Jan 10, 2007
twink said:
I suppose he only recognizes me because he sees me regularly.
That's a really important point. My dad doesn't see me more than once a month, and he can't name me any more. Today we called at the shops and he was really excited to go and say hello to one particular pharmacist - he left me at a display (unheard of!) and went to the counter alone (incredible) and I saw him nodding over in my direction when the staff tried to see if he was alone. When we left he was quite tearful at leaving the pharmacist.

He can pick out Bill Oddie from a magazine of book cover (because he watches birdwatching programmes all the time) but he can't name me.

Fortunately he doesn't seem to be plagued with anxiety though.

Val, I'd echo the points above about pressing the specialist or finding another - your mum shouldn't have to be put through that kind of panic and anxiety for some moral or medical ethical point to be scored - your mum's specialist must surely have the best interests of their clients at heart and needs to fully understand what your mum is going through to treat her. Don't be shy to go in there and explain - if it helps, write it down and take your notes with you so you don't get distracted or intimidated. Good luck for you and especially for your mum - poor woman, she shouldn't be having to put up with that.


Registered User
Feb 24, 2006
Bill Oddie was the last TV person my mother named, she had nearly given up watching TV, then one day pointed at it and said "Bill Oddie" but unfortunately he wasn't on, and I don't think she ever tried again.

TV was on all day in the respite home, it was the one man in that room who monopolised the remote control, but by then she generally preferred to go back to her own room.


J@ne said:
He can pick out Bill Oddie from a magazine of book cover (because he watches birdwatching programmes all the time) but he can't name me.


Registered User
Mar 15, 2006

I don't know what it is about knives. I know I was amazed last week when we were clearing mum's house at the number we found . (She finally went into care in March, and she seems to have settled well.)
We found huge sharp knives wrapped in vests, in under bed drawers, in plastic bags wrapped round and sellotaped. By the time she went into care I was surprised I couldn't ever find a knife for preparing her tea time food . Although I used to find one or two and put them back in the kitchen I had no idea that over the years she had amassed such a stash.
There were so many in the end, 20 or so long and sharp and vicious looking, that my son in law seriously wondered if we ought to hand them in at a police station! In the end I took them to the tip and put them in the metal bin.
Perhaps she knew they needed looking after carefully and wrapped them up in the only way she knew. We found nut crakers similarly wrapped and there were always spoons in with her vests or under the pillow so she 'would know where they were'.
Your mum might not have the knives for protection as such, just because she doesn't want them to get lost or moved. I'm sure thats all mum was doing.but then she'd forget where they were of course.
Hope you get some help with the lost children though, that must be upsetting for you all.


Registered User
Aug 3, 2006
Recognising prople

One does not have to to be suffering with AD to not recognise a family member. I can recall seeing two of our grand daughters advancing towards us in town about eight years ago, when they stopped in front of Jean and I, it took me some time to recognise who they were. We didn't see them too often.
Then again last year when our youngest grand daughter (17) visited last year (we have five of them) I mistook her for her elder sister. Is it therefore surprising if our loved ones don't see someone for months at a time they become strangers? Time takes it toll on us all as we travel in time. AD suffers regress in time.

I was confronted with a photo the other day of Jean when she was 25, to see one of the grand daughters, who to day who is 25, one could be forgiven for mistaken one for the other.

fearful fiona

Registered User
Apr 19, 2007
Hi there

I found these messages very familiar. My mother sometimes thinks I am HER mother and gets very confused with grandchildren etc. And the knife thing was interesting too. My mum accuses the carers of stealing knives (along with other things), we/they know it's not true. As yet I haven't found where they are stashed....

Medication - can't advise on, sounds as though a second opinion is needed. My Mum refuses to take medication, she's got an old copy of the British National Formulary (probably dating from about 1947!) and looks everthing up then throws all medication away. As the CPN said "just as well Mum hasn't got internet access!!!"

All the best


Registered User
Feb 24, 2006
I didn't recognize all the people who turned up for my parents' funerals, though they did look vaguely familiar ... they all seemed to know who I was.

Lonestray said:
One does not have to to be suffering with AD to not recognise a family member.


Registered User
Nov 14, 2006
Reply To None Recognition

Dear All,

Thanks for your replies. I Spoke to Mum's GP and made an appointment with the speacialist. Mum is on some medication, but as agreed with her GP, need to move up a touch. As I care for Mum at home, I am constantly watching the changes and obsessions she has. The knives became a worry as I did'nt want her to become violent with not recognising anyone, but I do agree that it's just another thing to wrap and put away. I had alovely day with her yesterday. No mentions of children and she kept telling me she loved me, so i was on a high by the time I tucked her up in bed lastnight. I'm having a break today, I just hope my other sister has some speacial time with her today:) .




Registered User
Feb 24, 2006
I realise that not recognising people you haven't seen for some years is rather different from not recognising those you see every day.

On the way to my brother's 60th birthday party I was sitting near one of my cousins in the bus and we didn't recognise each other, but then, we hadn't seen each other for 35 years.
Last edited: