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Changes in perception

Recognizing things you know

Agnosia is when you can’t recognize things you know using your senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, or touching).

When you have agnosia, you may have trouble recognizing:

  • words (even though you may know what the letters are within the word)
  • people’s faces (even those of family or friends)
  • sounds (like knowing the difference between a car’s engine and a vacuum cleaner)
  • things by touch (like knowing the difference between a toothbrush and a comb)

Tips for family and caregivers

  • Bring pictures of family and friends to the hospital. Have them practice naming the people in the pictures. Help them look for clues to tell people apart.
  • Encourage them to use the sense that’s working best in that moment. For example, if they can’t recognize things they see, have them touch them to find out what they are. If they can’t find out what they are by touch, have them look at them.
  • Use labels with words or pictures to help them know what things are.​

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