How to Handle a Parent with Dementia in Denial
"How can you say I have Alzheimer's disease? There is nothing wrong with me!”
If you’ve ever heard a senior loved one with dementia frustratingly communicate this or a similar sentiment, it's likely you have believed that individual was just in denial and not willing to come to grips with a tough diagnosis. The truth is, however, that oftentimes an individual with Alzheimer's disease and other conditions is experiencing anosognosia – an unawareness of his or her impairment – and is not just a parent with dementia in denial.
It can be difficult to determine the ideal way to respond to a person who's not aware of his or her own cognitive functioning difficulties. The following suggestions can help family caregivers better relate to their senior loved one with Alzheimer’s disease and anosognosia:
- Understand that the senior, although short of awareness in one area, is not necessarily dealing with overall unawareness of his or her limitations. The elderly person could be unaware of the memory impairment caused by dementia, but have full understanding of the physical limitations related to rheumatoid arthritis, for example.
- Expect changes in the person's level of anosognosia. While he or she may seem to be totally unaware of a certain struggle at present, the amount of awareness could shift over time.
- Fully support the senior to state his or her emotions, feelings and thoughts at all times without judgment. It is crucial for the person to feel comfortable discussing any problems openly and truthfully without feeling the desire to hide or cover them up.
Anosognosia, and other attributes of Alzheimer’s disease, such as sundowning, challenging behaviors, wandering, and aggression, can be quite overwhelming, both for the elderly person dealing with these issues and his or her loved ones. It is crucial for family members to search out a strong network of support and to educate themselves as much as possible in regards to the disease and recommendations for coping. It is also important for family members to set aside sufficient time for self-care.
Contact All Care for more advice on effectively managing the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, such as anosognosia, to let your senior loved one experience the best possible quality of life. We partner with individuals and their families to offer safe, experienced home health care in Ashland and the surrounding areas, enabling family caregivers the opportunity to step away for a period of time to relax and recharge. Whether the need is for a few hours each week or full-time, around-the-clock care, we’re available to help. Call us at (541) 857-9195 to learn more or to arrange for a free in-home consultation.