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What to look for?

Memory for Names and Faces | Common Signs

  • Does not recognize acquaintances or people who are not seen frequently
  • Does not recognize close family and friends
  • Can recognize a person but does not know his/her relationship to that person
  • Recognizes people when provided with a name or context (e.g. Joe is our neighbour)
  • Has difficulty remembering the names of close friends and family
  • Has trouble recognizing or naming familiar people in photographs
  • Has difficulty understanding who is being spoken about in conversation
  • Calls people by incorrect names
  • Mistakes one person for another
  • Does not recognize well known public figures (political figures, sports heroes)
  • Cannot name well known public figures
Memory for Names and Faces | General Description

People with Alzheimer's disease often cannot match names with faces, or cannot recognize faces with a sure feeling of familiarity. The inability to remember names or relationships contributes to isolation and deeply affects their social life. The person you care for may have difficulty remembering the names of family members and friends, may call them by their wrong name, and sometimes cannot even remember their own name. For example, the person you care for may recognize a person, pick them out of a photograph and know their relationship to them, yet cannot remember their name. In the later stages , especially if treatment has had little effect, it becomes increasingly difficult for the person you care for to remember the names and faces they see less frequently. They recognize the faces they see daily, such as a spouse or caregiver, but they may confuse children and grandchildren. In later stages of the disease, the person may not be able to identify their spouse, or caregiver, or their relationship to them.

Some types of vascular dementia start with the inability to recognize faces, although this is uncommon. As always, Alzheimer's disease can sometimes have this unusual presentation too. In the early stages of Frontotemporal dementia , memory is not usually affected. Difficulties in organization concentration and follow through may look like a memory problem. People are very distracted and unable to function well on testing. In later stages, a more generalized dementia often occurs and people may no longer be able to recognize friends and family.

The first step in taking a more active role in symptom management is understanding how a symptom is affecting everyday life; the next step is communicating this knowledge to the care planning team and family members. SymptomGuideTM is designed with these goals in mind.

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See Also:
Symptom Library > Memory & Language > Memory of Recent Events
Symptom Library > Memory & Language > Memory of Past Events
Symptom Library > Leisure Activities > Social Interaction/ Withdrawal
About Dementia > Alzheimer's Disease > Natural Progression and Staging
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Last updated January 9, 2019
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