“How could you possibly say that I have dementia? There’s not a thing wrong with me!”
If a senior loved one with dementia expresses sentiments such as this, you might have thought to yourself that he or she was simply in denial and unwilling to accept such a difficult diagnosis. However, there could be another reason: anosognosia, or a person’s true unawareness that he or she is impaired by dementia.
Determining the best way to respond to a senior who is unfamiliar with the personal difficulties being experienced with cognitive functioning is a challenge. Our Concord home health team has compiled several tips to help family caregivers more effectively care for someone with anosognosia:
- Realize that the older adult with dementia, while lacking in awareness of this one particular area, isn’t necessarily experiencing complete unawareness of his or her state of being. The senior may not be aware of the memory impairment caused by dementia, but still maintain full understanding of his or her physical limitations related to osteoarthritis, for instance.
- Be prepared for fluctuations in the senior’s degree of anosognosia. While the person may seem to be fully unaware of a specific struggle at the moment, the degree of awareness can shift over time.
- Provide full support to the individual by permitting conversations about his or her emotions, feelings, and thoughts at all times without judgment. It is imperative for the senior to feel comfortable in expressing any concerns openly and honestly without feeling it necessary to cover them up.
Anosognosia, and other effects of Alzheimer’s disease, such as sundowning, wandering, challenging behaviors, and aggression, can be extremely difficult, both for the senior living with these problems and for his or her loved ones. Family caregivers need to seek out a strong network of support and to learn as much as possible about the disease, along with strategies for most effectively managing it. It is also very important to be sure to set aside sufficient time for self-care.
Contact the Concord home health professionals at Hillendale Home Care for additional tips for Alzheimer’s care, including anosognosia, ensuring the senior you love enjoys the best possible quality of life at all times. We work with families to provide compassionate, highly skilled respite care services, allowing family caregivers the chance to step away for a period of time to relax. Whether the senior could benefit from a few hours of care each week or full-time, around-the-clock specialized dementia care, we’re always available to help. Call us at 925-933-8181 to learn more, to find out if our services are available in your area, and to request a complimentary in-home consultation.