It’s Not Denial: Dementia’s Anosognosia Explained

Senior man sitting on sofa

Senior man sitting on sofa“I don’t have dementia. There’s nothing wrong with me!”

If perhaps you’ve ever heard a friend or family member with dementia frustratingly voice this or perhaps a very similar sentiment, it’s possible you have supposed the person was just in denial and unwilling to come to grips with a tough diagnosis. The stark reality is, however, that often people who have dementia and other conditions are experiencing anosognosia – an unawareness of their impairment.

It can be difficult to figure out the ideal way to respond to a person who’s unaware of his or her own cognitive functioning issues. The following suggestions might actually help family caregivers better relate to their loved one with Alzheimer’s disease and anosognosia:

  • Know that the senior, although lacking in awareness in one area, isn’t necessarily experiencing overall unawareness of his or her health status. The senior could be unaware of the memory impairment because of dementia, but have full understanding of the physical limitations related to rheumatoid arthritis, for example.
  • Expect fluctuations in the senior’s level of anosognosia. While he or she might appear to be entirely unaware of a certain struggle at this moment, the level of awareness could shift over time.
  • Fully support the individual to speak about his or her emotions, feelings and thoughts at all times without judgment. It is important for the elderly person to feel safe sharing any worries openly and truthfully without feeling the need to hide or cover them up.

Anosognosia, and other attributes of Alzheimer’s disease, such as sundowning, challenging behaviors, wandering, and aggression, can be extremely difficult, both for the senior battling these problems and his or her loved ones. It is very important for family to search for a strong community of support and to educate themselves as much as possible in regards to disease and tips for coping. It’s equally important for family caregivers to reserve plenty of time for self-care.

Contact Heaven at Home Senior Care for additional suggestions about effectively handling the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, such as anosognosia, to allow your senior loved one to enjoy the best possible quality of life consistently. As a home care agency, we partner with families to offer safe, knowledgeable respite care services, providing family care providers the opportunity to step away for a length of time to rest and renew. Whether the need is for a few hours each week or full-time, around-the-clock care, we’re available to assist. Call us at 866-381-0500 to learn more or to arrange for a free in-home consultation.