Will dying Mom's hair help Dad recognize her?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 18, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My father-in-law is having difficulty recognizing his wife from his late mother-in-law. Will dying her hair help? How can we convince him? He gets really agitated. Will Reglan with his Exelon patch and Namenda react together?

Expert Answers

Ladislav Volicer, M.D., Ph.D., is recognized as an international expert on advanced dementia care. He is a courtesy full professor at the School of Aging Studies, University of South Florida, Tampa, and visiting professor at the Third Medical Faculty, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic. Twenty-five years ago, he established one of the first dementia special care units.

Medications do not cause misperception of person's identity. I am including my wife's answer because she is better equipped to answer this question:

Your father-in-law is in the stage of his illness where he is not able to understand reality so telling him that this person is not his mother-in-law would not be helpful and indeed will cause him to be agitated. I'm not sure dyeing his wife's hair would help. If he is in a happy relationship with his "mother-in-law", just let it be. If on the other hand it is upsetting, perhaps he did not like his mother-in-law, having her look different might help. Try a wig first, to see if it would help. I remember working with a daughter of a resident who told me that her mother didn't recognize her and thought her daughter was her sister. Her daughter told me it was always fun to see which sister she would be on any given day as her mother had five of them! So, if you all can just make every effort to keep your father in a happy place, this phase will eventually pass.

Joyce Simard MSW