More Than Denial: Anosognosia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer's disease“I do NOT have Alzheimer’s disease! There isn’t anything wrong with me!”

If perhaps you’ve heard a family member with dementia frustratingly communicate this or maybe a matching sentiment, you may have believed the person was merely in denial and unwilling to accept a difficult diagnosis. The stark reality is, however, that frequently those with dementia and other conditions are experiencing anosognosia – an unawareness of their impairment.

It can be difficult to decide the ideal way to respond to a person who’s not aware of his or her own cognitive functioning challenges. The following suggestions can assist family caregivers better relate to their aging loved one with Alzheimer’s disease and anosognosia:

  • Keep in mind that the senior, although lacking in awareness within one area, is not necessarily experiencing overall unawareness of his or her state of being. The elderly person may be unaware of the memory impairment due to dementia, but have full awareness of the physical constraints related to rheumatoid arthritis, for example.
  • Expect changes in the individual’s level of anosognosia. While he or she might appear to be entirely unaware of a particular struggle at the moment, the degree of awareness may shift over time.
  • Completely support the individual to speak about his or her emotions, feelings and thoughts at all times without having judgment. It’s important for the individual to feel comfortable discussing any worries freely and truthfully without feeling the desire to hide or cover them up.
Anosognosia, and other elements of Alzheimer’s disease, such as sundowning, challenging behaviors, wandering, and aggression, can be extremely overwhelming, both for the individual fighting these issues and his or her loved ones. It is necessary for family to search out a strong network of support and to educate themselves as much as possible in regards to the disease and suggestions for coping. It’s also important for family caregivers to reserve plenty of time for self-care.

Contact Advanced Home Healthcare’s West Point home care experts for further suggestions about effectively handling the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, such as anosognosia, to let your senior loved one experience the best possible quality of life consistently. We partner with families to offer safe, skilled respite care services, enabling family caregivers the opportunity to step away for a length of time to rest and revitalize. Whether the need is for a few hours each week or full-time, around-the-clock caregiving, we’re available to assist. Check out our full service area and call us at 800.791.7785 to learn more or to arrange for a free in-home consultation.
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