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Does Someone With Dementia Know They Have It

Know The Signs Of Dementia

Why does a Person Not Know They Have Dementia? || The “Why” Series

Early diagnosis can help people with dementia plan for the future, and might mean they can access interventions that help slow down the disease. Being familiar with the signs of dementia can help people receive a diagnosis as early as possible.

Early signs that a person might have dementia can include:

  • being vague in everyday conversations
  • memory loss that affects day-to-day function
  • short term memory loss
  • difficulty performing everyday tasks and taking longer to do routine tasks
  • losing enthusiasm or interest in regular activities
  • difficulties in thinking or saying the right words
  • changes in personality or behaviour
  • finding it difficult to follow instructions
  • finding it difficult to follow stories
  • increased emotional unpredictability.

What Are The Signs That Someone With Dementia Is Dying

It is difficult to know when a person with dementia is coming to the end of their life. However, there are some symptoms that may indicate the person is at the end of their life including:

  • limited speech
  • needing help with everyday activities
  • eating less and swallowing difficulties
  • incontinence and becoming bed bound.

When these are combined with frailty, recurrent infections and/or pressure ulcers, the person is likely to be nearing the end of their life. If the person has another life limiting condition , their condition is likely to worsen in a more predictable way.

When a person gets to within a few days or hours of dying, further changes are common. These include:

  • deteriorating more quickly
  • irregular breathing
  • cold hands and feet.

These are part of the dying process, and its important to be aware of them so that you can help family and friends understand what is happening.

When a person with dementia is at the end of life its important to support the person to be as comfortable as possible until they die

For more information, see our page, Signs that someone is in their last days or hours.

Signs Of Dying In The Elderly With Dementia

Dementia is a general term for a chronic or persistent decline in mental processes including memory loss, impaired reasoning, and personality changes. Alzheimers disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of all cases of dementia. It is also the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, and over 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimers disease.

Alzheimers disease and most progressive dementias do not have a cure. While the disease inevitably worsens over time, that timeline can vary greatly from one patient to the next.

Caring for a loved one can be challenging and stressful, as the individuals personality changes and cognitive function declines. They may even stop recognizing their nearest and dearest friends and relatives. As dementia progresses, the individual will require more and more care. As a family caregiver, its important to be able to recognize the signs of dying in elderly with dementia. Hospice can help by offering care wherever the individual resides, providing physical, emotional and spiritual care to the patient and support their family.

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Why Are Early Signs Of Dementia So Important

Spotting the early signs of Dementia can make all the difference as if it is diagnosed early, there is a chance that medication will slow down the diseases that cause the damage to the brain. Weve put together a handy list of the early signs of dementia for you to look out for and some specific symptoms you can monitor.

Provide Support For Family And Friends

What NOT to Say to Someone With Dementia

Keep any family or friends informed about what is happening in a gentle, sensitive and supportive way. This will help reassure them that the person is getting the care they need. You could consider signposting them to appropriate services, such as an Admiral Nurse or local Alzheimers Society. It can also help to give them an opportunity to talk about what is happening.

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How To Talk To Someone You Think Has Signs Of Dementia

Talking about memory loss, and the possibility of dementia, can be difficult. Someone who is experiencing these symptoms may be confused, unaware they have any problems, worried, or struggling to accept their condition.

Before starting a conversation with someone you’re concerned about, the Alzheimer’s Society suggests you ask yourself:

  • has the person noticed their symptoms?
  • do they think their problems are just a natural part of ageing?
  • are they scared about what their symptoms could mean for their future?
  • do they think there will not be any point in seeking help?
  • are you the best person to talk to them about memory problems?

When you do talk to them, choose a place that is familiar and not threatening. Also, allow plenty of time so the conversation is not rushed.

The Alzheimer’s Society has more tips on how to talk to someone about memory problems.

If the person does not want to see a GP, many UK dementia charities offer support and advice from specialist nurses or advisers, such as:

  • Alzheimer’s Society’s national helpline: or email:

People Become Aware Of The Changes

Some people with dementia may go about their lives oblivious to what is going on in their brains.

A report from Johns Hopkins in 2018 revealed that a majority of people living with dementia do not know about their diagnosis.

Some of these people might suffer from anosognosia which is a result of cell damage in the parietal and right pre-frontal lobes.

It can be brought about by cell declination as a result of dementia/Alzheimers disease or when a person has a stroke.

Other people may notice the physical changes, mental limitations, and behaviors that the ill person showcases but they will remain adamant that nothing is wrong.

This creates challenges for caregivers because they will be dealing with someone who thinks they are fine thus, they do not need to take the necessary measures to treat symptoms and increase longevity because dementia does not have a cure to date.

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Do Not Try To Stop A Person Who Wants To Leave A Room

Staying in one place for long periods may result in behavior problems in the dementia patient. It is essential to have a safe environment where they can enjoy the outdoors without any problem. When someone tries to leave a room, do not force them to stop. Doing this may result in an extreme reaction such as severe distress or injuries.

Instead, it is best to accompany the patient so that they are safe. You can even suggest going for a drive around the block so that they can experience a new environment for a short period. If they do not want company, just let them go but stay close by to make sure that the patient is safe at all times.

Inside The Mind Of Dementia

Convincing someone they have dementia

What does it feel like to have dementia? Thats a question that researchers, scientists and family members of loved ones have asked time and time again. What is really going on in the mind of the person? How do they view the world? Do they understand whats happening, or do they think that everybody else are the ones acting strange? The answer to that depends on the person and what stage of dementia they are in.

No two people experience dementia the same way, says Erica Labb, Executive Director of Bridges® by EPOCH at Westford. Some individuals could suffer significant memory loss but remain fairly physically healthy. Others can deteriorate at an incredible speed. It can depend on what type of dementia a person has, their health history and many other intangibles that we arent even aware of yet.

But thanks to research and a growing awareness of dementias such as Alzheimers disease, we are gathering a clearer picture of what it feels like to have dementia, particularly in the early stages of the disease. If a person is in the early stages of dementia, they are still capable of many things, which makes it easier for them to record their emotions, feelings and experiences, says Erica. There are many first-hand accounts, speakers and advocates out there who are open and honest about their experience, and theyre helping change the outlook on what dementia is and what it isnt.

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Check Their Advance Care Plan

You should find out if the person has an advance care plan. This document may record their preferences about the care theyd like to receive, including what they want to happen, what they dont want to happen and who they want to speak on their behalf. It may include an advance statement or an advance decision. We have information on planning ahead for patients and their families, which you might find useful.

Do Offer Assurance Often

Many times, people with dementia may experience feelings of isolation, fear, loneliness or confusion. They may not be able to express this in the right way and thus may wander off or keep saying that they want to go back home, especially if they are in a senior living facility. This is not the time to shut them out. Its a good idea to assure them that they are safe and in a good place.

If you are close enough, provide a comforting hug every once in a while and remind them that they are in a place that has their best interest at heart. Where possible, engage in exercise or take a walk as even light physical activity may help to reduce agitation, restlessness and anxiety.

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Do Not Shy Away From Asking For Help

No one may have all the answers especially when it comes to taking care of a person with dementia. Try doing research on how their behavior changes and what needs to be done to help them live their lives without too many complications. Hire help when it becomes too much as it also ensures that you do not become too frustrated or drained. When you have multiple family members who can help, ask everyone to pitch in and look after the patient so that you can get some personal space to breathe and re-energize when it is your time to look after the patient. When you feel like you can no longer look after your loved one at your own home, it may be time to consider assisted living. In such case, look into dementia care homes that can provide specially trained professionals.

Early Symptoms Of Dementia

What if someone with dementia says or does something wrong ...

Although the early signs vary, common early symptoms of dementia include:

  • memory problems, particularly remembering recent events
  • increasing confusion
  • apathy and withdrawal or depression
  • loss of ability to do everyday tasks.

Sometimes, people fail to recognise that these symptoms indicate that something is wrong. They may mistakenly assume that such behaviour is a normal part of the ageing process. Symptoms may also develop gradually and go unnoticed for a long time. Also, some people may refuse to act, even when they know something is wrong.

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Telling The Truth To People With Dementia

Get advice on how to deal with difficult situations around telling the truth to people with dementia.

Making decisions and managing difficult situations

Situations may arise where a person with dementia asks questions that leave carers feeling unsure about whether to answer honestly. This could be because the answer would be distressing to the person for example, reminding them that a relative or partner has died. In cases such as these, carers can look for different ways of handling the situation.

If the person says something that you know is not true or possible, try to see past what they are saying, and instead look at the emotions behind it. For example, if they are asking for their mother, who is no longer alive, it may be that they are feeling scared or need comforting. By meeting the needs behind what is being said, it can be possible to offer emotional support while avoiding a direct confrontation over the facts.

In some situations you may decide that not telling the truth is in the persons best interests. If you do decide that the truth would be too distressing for the person, there are other options available.

Each case should be judged individually and the course of action should be chosen to suit the specific time and situation. An ideal solution is one that you feel comfortable with and also considers the persons interests.

How Does Dementia Affect The Person With Dementia

Their memory and cognitive skills continue to get worse and you might see significant personality changes or the fading of personality altogether. Dementia affects each person in a unique way and changes different parts of the brain at different points in the disease progression. Plus, different types of dementia tend to have different symptoms.

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How To Share The Diagnosis

Sharing the initial news of the diagnosis may come from any one of a number of people.

The doctor or specialist, assessment team or members of the family may talk to the person about the diagnosis either individually or as a group.

You might consider having someone present at the time of telling to provide extra support.

Planning ahead about the best way to share the diagnosis will make it easier.

As individual responses will be different, careful consideration must be given to every individual situation.

There are some considerations that will be generally helpful when talking with a person about their diagnosis:

  • Ensure that the setting is quiet and without competing noise and distractions.
  • Speak slowly and directly to the person.
  • Give one message at a time.
  • Allow time for the person to absorb the information and to form questions. Information may need to be added later.
  • Written information about dementia can be helpful to take away and provides a helpful reference. Dementia Australia has information written specifically for people with dementia. In some instances this information is available in video or audio format. Contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
  • Ensure that someone is available to support the person after being told about the diagnosis.

What Are The Symptoms

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Each person is unique and will experience dementia in their own way. The different types of dementia tend to affect people differently, especially in the early stages.

A person with dementia will often have cognitive symptoms . They will often have problems with some of the following:

  • Day-to-day memory difficulty recalling events that happened recently.
  • Repetition repeating the same question or conversation frequently in a short space of time.
  • Concentrating, planning or organising difficulties making decisions, solving problems or carrying out a sequence of tasks .
  • Language difficulties following a conversation or finding the right word for something.
  • Visuospatial skills – problems judging distances and seeing objects in three dimensions.
  • Orientation – losing track of the day or date, or becoming confused about where they are.

Some people have other symptoms including movement problems, hallucinations or behaviour changes.

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Ignoring The Symptoms Won’t Make Them Go Away

It’s not uncommon to spend valuable time in the early stages and symptoms of dementia hoping that the symptoms will just go away, or trying to convince yourself that it is just a phase or that you’re overreacting. This attempt to cope by denial of the problem may make things better for you in the short term of today, but it can delay the diagnosis of other conditions that look like dementia but are treatable, as well as delay diagnosis and treatment of true dementia.

Instead, remember that while it can be anxiety-provoking to schedule that appointment with the doctor, it can also be helpful to know what you’re facing. Even having your worries confirmed by getting a diagnosis of dementia can actually be a good thing, since there are many benefits to early detection, including medications that are often more effective in the early stages.

Anosognosia: When Dementia Patients Cant Recognize Their Impairment

Are dementia patients aware of their condition?

Family members and caregivers often ponder this question as their loved ones begin experiencing telltale symptoms like memory problems, poor judgement, confusion and behavior changes. In a similar vein, members often seek advice on the AgingCare Caregiver Forum as to why an aging parent or spouse is adamantly refusing care. For many seniors who have been diagnosed with Alzheimers disease or other forms of dementia, they refuse to stop driving, wont accept in-home care and resist the idea of moving to senior living because they are unaware that they need assistance. The sad truth is that a decline in mental function essentially affects ones ability to understand and acknowledge of the extent of ones impairment. This leaves dementia caregivers in a tricky spot.

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Do Not Get Angry Or Upset

When looking after persons with dementia, practicing self-control is of utter importance. Learn how to breathe in and just relax without taking things personally or getting angry and upset. Remember that dementia patients do not act the way they do out of their own accord. It is the illness that makes them behave the way they do.

Do Keep Eye Contact When Speaking

Do People with Dementia Know They Have It

Communicating with a dementia patient requires a lot of patience, especially during later stages of dementia. It is vital to ensure that you talk in a place that has good lighting, a place that is quiet and without too many distractions. Do not try and stand over the person you are talking to, but rather try to be at their level and keep eye contact at all times. Take care to make sure that body language is relaxed and open. Prepare to spend quality time with the person so that they do not feel rushed or like they are a bother.

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