On Recognition, Caring, and Dementia

Abstract

The onset of dementia raises troubling questions. Does the person with dementia still recognize you? If someone cannot recognize you, can they still care about you? This essay takes such questions as the entry point for a broader inquiry into recognition, its linkages to care, and how claims to social and political “recognition” are linked to, or premised on, the demonstrated capacity to “recognize” people and things. In the words and actions of her severely impaired mother, the author finds guidance toward a better, more compassionate question to ask about dementia: how can we best strive to “keep the cares together”?