In the Media: On 'This American Life,' Janelle Taylor shares her experience of her mother’s dementia

February 5, 2024 by A&S News

As the dementia her mother was experiencing progressed, Janelle Taylor grew to anticipate the inevitable question from those around her: Does she recognize you?

Professor Taylor is a medical anthropologist in the Faculty of Arts & Science’s Department of Anthropology. In 2008, the journal Medical Anthropology Quarterly published her essay, “On Recognition, Caring, and Dementia," describing her experience with her mother’s condition and the questions it raised.

“I regularly hear from people who write to tell me that the essay touched them,” says Taylor, “and that it helped them gain a new perspective on dementia in someone they love.”

In the article, Taylor describes how the question — Does she recognize you? — led her to explore the idea of recognition, how it relates to elder care, and what those connections mean for people living with dementia and the people in their lives.

Since its publication, the deeply personal piece has become one of Taylor’s most cited works. It also caught the attention of producers of the popular podcast, This American Life, who asked her to be part of an episode about “people asking loaded questions that are a proxy for something else.”

You can listen to Taylor read her essay adapted for TAL in the episode, “The Question Trap.”