Many seniors experience increased forgetfulness, agitation, and anxiety when they suffer from dementia, but deny that anything is wrong when family members express concerns. This can make an already difficult situation even more frustrating, especially if it seems that they are genuinely unaware of their dementia.
Spring Hills has seen this happen many times, and has extensive experience in both memory care and dealing with this condition, known as Anosognosia.
Do People with Dementia Know They Have Dementia?
Anosognosia in dementia is actually a neurological disorder that results from physiological damage to parts of the brain. It’s not that your loved one is denying that they suffer from dementia because they are being stubborn, or that it’s a psychological defense mechanism. They are unable to recognize the fact that they have dementia. They might also not realize it because:
- They haven’t noticed the effects on their everyday life. Maybe their spouse or a caregiver has been helping them with daily activities so they don’t realize that they would struggle if they did those activities on their own.
- They don’t remember the diagnosis. Perhaps they don’t remember the meeting, or parts or all of the discussion with the doctor. Don’t forget that dementia often causes memory loss.
- They figured that forgetfulness and confusion were just part of growing older. They are not, however, aware that they have been demonstrating more forgetfulness and confusion than what should be expected from aging.
Sometimes, when a family member is in dementia denial due to anosognosia, it’s even harder to handle, because they don’t see the evidence that they are suffering from dementia.
How Do You Tell Someone They Have Dementia?
This can be an extremely difficult conversation to have with a spouse or other loved one in dementia denial. How do you tell someone they have dementia when they can’t see it themselves? Here are some tips that may be helpful to you:
- Accept that this is often part of the journey. Understand that it is normal for dementia to also affect self-awareness. Recognize that it simply may take some time for them to realize that they may be affected by the condition.
- Explain dementia -and anosognosia- in gentle terms. There is still a lot of stigma around dementia, so even if they do realize they have the condition, they may want to deny it because they are afraid. Gently explain that it is a physiological condition and does not mean there is something “wrong” with them. It might be less painful for them to accept if they see it as a physical problem, not a mental or emotional one.
- Don’t push them. Put yourselves in their shoes. For some people, ignorance is bliss. For others, they need time to gradually come to terms with their condition or to notice symptoms of dementia. Sometimes, just admitting that their memory might not be what it used to be is a huge step.
Holistic Memory Care from Qualified Providers
Throughout this process, be sure to provide them with emotional support. Remind them that it is okay to be worried. If they do refuse to accept that they have dementia, try to simply be in the moment with them and give it time. It may also be necessary to seek qualified memory care services from a group like Spring Hills. Our caregivers have years of experience in managing dementia and do so in a holistic and empathetic way.
For assistance in approaching your loved one’s dementia, or to inquire about holistic memory care services near you, contact us. We’re more than happy to help you and your loved one continue leading the lives you both love.