A Lesser Known Effect of Dementia: Anosognosia
“Why would you think I have Alzheimer’s? There’s nothing wrong with me!”
If you’ve listened to a friend or family member with dementia frustratingly voice this or maybe a matching sentiment, it’s possible you have assumed the person was simply in denial and unwilling to accept a tough diagnosis. The simple truth is, however, that often individuals with dementia and other conditions are experiencing anosognosia – an unawareness of his or her impairment.
It can be difficult to determine the way to respond to a senior who is unaware of his or her own cognitive functioning challenges. The following suggestions may help family caregivers better relate to their aging loved one with Alzheimer’s disease and anosognosia:
- Know that the senior, although short of awareness in one area, is not necessarily experiencing overall unawareness of his or her health status. The individual may be unaware of the memory impairment brought on by dementia, but have full understanding of the physical limitations related to rheumatoid arthritis, for example.
- Expect fluctuations in the person’s level of anosognosia. While he or she may appear to be totally unaware of a certain struggle at this moment, the level of awareness could shift over time.
- Completely support the individual to express his or her emotions, thoughts and feelings at all times with no judgment. It is essential for the senior to feel safe expressing any problems freely and truthfully without feeling the need to conceal or cover them up.
Anosognosia, and other elements of Alzheimer’s disease, such as sundowning, challenging behaviors, wandering, and aggression, can be very difficult, both for the individual fighting these issues and his or her loved ones. It’s important for family to seek out a strong community of support and to educate themselves as much as possible in regards to disease and strategies for coping. It’s also important for family members to set aside sufficient time for self-care.
Contact CareWorks Health Services 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 consistently. We partner with family members to provide safe, experienced respite care services, allowing family care providers the chance to step away for a period of time to relax and rejuvenate. Whether the need is for a few hours each week or full-time, around-the-clock caregiving, we’re available to assist throughout Orange County, CA. Call us at (949) 859-4700 to find out more or to arrange for a free in-home consultation.