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How To Deal With Alzheimer’s Denial

What To Do If Your Parent Is In Denial About Their Dementia Symptoms

Dementia Whisperer: Laura Wayman’s Tips on Dealing with Denial

The challenging part in handling the denial of symptoms is that it can be a nonstop problem requiring lots of energy. Many people with dementia have significant memory loss, which means that you will need to repeat your approach. In the end, remember that the goal is to keep your parent calm, safe, and as happy as possible.

Dementia Denial: The Secretive Obstacle To Intervention

Oh, silly me Id lose my own head if it werent attached!

Of course I remember thatI was just joking.

Yes, I feel great, thanks.

Anyone who has a family member or friend diagnosed with early-stage dementia or Alzheimers has heard these phrases, and many similar ones. One of the trickiest aspects of early-stage cognition impairment isnt necessarily the disease itselfits the denial.

For caregivers, patient-centric denial becomes a frustrating obstacle to productive memory-care regimens and possible treatment with medications that could earn precious time, if administered early on. For families and friends, it can be absolutely devastating.

Denial is, first and foremost, a coping mechanismrooted deep in the human psyche. It taps into our most primal survival instincts, attempting to reassure our own feelings of normalcy and belonging in the communitywide collective we call life.

Many people who live with early-stage dementia can still drive to the grocery store, have logical conversations, recite multiple phone numbers and addresses, and function rather well in daily life. To them, things seem pretty much OK, so they find it hard to see what all the fuss is about.

They naturally wonder why others are harping on them, as if they arent capable of remembering a simple task! They misunderstand their familys reactions, they doubt their own diagnoses and they reject their physicians proposed care plans.

Then the real, bone-level fear sets in.

How To Deal With The Denial Of Aging Parents

Psychologically, her denial allows her to save face and keep her spirits up. However, her denial is a symptom of her deteriorating cognitive abilities. Her brain isn’t as capable of correctly self-reflecting and understanding her new limits. The sensitivity you show an elderly parent might help them accept unwelcome change. But if your parent continues to deny their decline, it’s possible that they won’t accept reality even when it’s right in front of them.

Denial is a natural human reaction to tragedy. We all go through periods where we refuse to acknowledge something terrible has happened to us or someone we love. Denial is normal it helps us get through difficult times. Denial is different from obliviousness. With denial, we are aware that something bad has happened, but we don’t accept it as true.

For example, let’s say you’re driving down the road and suddenly notice that one of your tires is flat. You might immediately think about how you’ll have to replace the tire, but before you do that you decide to drive on this tire for a while to see if it will eventually blow out. If it does, great! No need to worry about changing it. If it doesn’t, then you can change it when you get home.

In this case, denial is when you refuse to admit that there’s a problem with your tire.

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Facing Dementia In The Family

When you or a loved one first receives adementiadiagnosis, you may feel a range of contradictory emotions, sometimessimultaneously. Many people undergo a period of profound grief, withfeelings of shock, denial and deep sadness. The prospect of facing thissignificant life change can make you feel demoralized, embarrassed orangry. You may even want to keep the diagnosis secret from friends or otherfamily members.

On the other hand, you may feel a sense of relief. Finally, your suspicionshave been validated, and you and your loved ones can seek out more supportand therapeutic interventions.

Other Factors That Can Affect Behavior

Dos and Don

In addition to changes in the brain, other things may affect how people with Alzheimers behave:

Other problems in their surroundings may affect behavior for a person with Alzheimers disease. Too much noise, such as TV, radio, or many people talking at once can cause frustration and confusion. Stepping from one type of flooring to another or the way the floor looks may make the person think he or she needs to take a step down. Mirrors may make them think that a mirror image is another person in the room. For tips on creating an Alzheimers-safe home, visit Home Safety and Alzheimers Disease.

If you dont know what is causing the problem, call the doctor. It could be caused by a physical or medical issue.

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How To Deal With Denial Of Aging Parents

Psychologically, her denial helps her to save face and maintain good spirits. But her denial itself is a manifestation of her increasing cognitive impairments. Her brain isnt as capable of self-reflecting accurately and perceiving her new limitations. The empathy you extend to an aging parent can ease the acceptance of unwanted change.

My mother is in denial. It isnt that she refuses to believe she has memory problems and difficulty understanding complex matters at times. But, like most of us dealing with unpleasant realities, she has a tendency to minimize those impairments and to judge her own capabilities on the basis of how formidable, and not forgetful, she used to be.

Psychologically, her denial helps her to save face and maintain good spirits. But her denial itself is a manifestation of her increasing cognitive impairments. Her brain isnt as capable of self-reflecting accurately and perceiving her new limitations. The empathy you extend to an aging parent can ease the acceptance of unwanted change.

Family members can deny oncoming or existing dementia. They feel awkward or embarrassed. They assume friends would not understand. They resist sharing their personal caregiving stories at the lunch table at work. Family members may not want to look ahead, resulting in denial about dementia in their parent or spouse.

When A Person Doesnt Accept Their Diagnosis Of Dementia

Every person who is diagnosed with dementia will react to the news in their own way. Many people find it difficult to come to terms with, or adjust to, a diagnosis of dementia. Some people may feel that nothing is wrong and not recognise that they are experiencing any problems.

Others may acknowledge that they are having difficulties doing certain things but believe this is due to a reason other than dementia. For example, they might say their memory loss is because they are getting older. They may avoid talking about their condition by changing the subject if someone mentions it.

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How To Address Denial About Dementia In Seniors And Adults

Caregivers can “understand that denial is frequently a part of the dementia journey, explain it in more compassionate words, attempt a few therapeutic falsehoods, recognize that ignorance can be bliss, take precautions to keep them safe, and find methods to work around it.” A therapeutic lie involves introducing a doctor as a “friend” who want to assist you. This may help if you do not want to tell the actual reason for wanting the doctor’s advice.

Denial is a natural reaction to emotional pain. It helps us avoid thinking and feeling uncomfortable things. Denial is normal even for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. However, if denial is used as a defense mechanism against discussing dementia with others then it becomes a problem.

Those who are close to an Alzheimer’s patient may experience denial. For example, a spouse or child may deny that someone they love has Alzheimer’s disease. Or a friend may refuse to believe that someone who was active and involved in their community has changed. Dementia can be difficult to diagnose because early signs are similar to those of many other diseases. Also, doctors may miss symptoms of dementia due to misdiagnosis or else be unable to confirm its presence.

Be Kind And Supportive

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No one knows what goes on in the minds of people with dementia, but the experience can be confusing, frightening, and bewildering for them. These emotions can lead to agitation and anger when someone doesnt feel they are in control.

A kind and supportive approach will help keep your parent calm and relaxed. It can also give you a better opportunity to communicate changes and plans for care.

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Denial May Reflect That The Person Is Feeling Fearful And Needs Time To Accept What Is Happening

It is possible that they have some awareness of their cognition issues and may be feeling uneasy or anxious about this. They may also be fearful about the future.

They may feel or think that other people may feel a stigma about having a diagnosis of dementia.

Here are some ideas to consider when talking to someone about your worries.

  • Broach the topic gently. It may help to remind them that memory issues dont always point towards dementia.
  • Be kind and supportive during the conversation. Listen to their reasons and any fears they raise.
  • Let them know that youre worried about them. Give examples of issues e.g. missing appointments, misplacing items, forgetting names.
  • Break down the larger issue into smaller ones. Pick one to focus on e.g. Ive noticed youve been forgetting names of friends. Maybe the GP will be able to help.
  • Keep a diary of events as proof. This will help you show someone youre worried about that you have evidence for your worries. The diary will also support you both if you see a doctor as they may want to see a record of issues.
  • Turn the focus towards getting support for their friends and family e.g. If you visit the GP, we might be able to get extra help that would give me a break…

If their denial of the issue continues, this may further delay receiving an official diagnosis.

How To Deal With Dementia Denial

Dealing with dementia denial may not be something that crossed your path before. If you are caring for an elderly relative, you are already doing a difficult job. Of course the love and affection you have for them helps a lot. Furthermore, since this is a decision you made, the commitment is a burden you chose to carry. Spending time with your elderly loved one towards the end of their life is precious for you both. They cared for you when you were young and now it is your turn to pay them back. Reliving the old days and making new memories are things the entire family can enjoy and participate in. Unfortunately, this only makes it harder to know how to deal with dementia denial.

The link here is specific to your situation:

However, you may have noticed certain changes, even deterioration, in their mental health. You may even suspect that dementia is on the horizon. If you are correct, you may be wondering what to do next. Here at Vermont Aged Care we are familiar with the problems of dementia. Therefore we have experience that we are happy to share with you. Fact sheets are available at.

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Be Aware Of The Signs Of Dementia

Although dementia is not only about memory loss, that’s one of the main signs.

Some of the other signs of dementia include:

  • increasing difficulty with tasks and activities that require concentration and planning
  • changes in personality and mood
  • periods of mental confusion
  • difficulty finding the right words or not being able to understand conversations as easily

You may like to suggest you go with your friend or relative to see a GP so you can support them. You’ll also be able to help them recall what has been discussed.

A GP will ask how the symptoms have developed over time. They may also do a memory test and physical examination. Blood tests may be done to check if the symptoms are being caused by another condition.

If other causes can be ruled out, the GP will usually refer your friend or relative to a memory clinic, or other specialist service, where they may have more assessments to confirm whether they have dementia.

Read more about how dementia is diagnosed.

Why Is This Happening

Dealing With Dementia : Easy To Understand Tips And ...

When a person with dementia is verbally or non-verbally communicating that they dont want to do something, we need to discover why. It might be that:

  • The person does not understand what they are being asked to do.
  • The request we are making does not fit with the persons standards and preferences for example, we are asking them to eat something they dont like or to go to bed when they want to stay up.
  • The person feels they are being talked down to or bossed about, and is refusing in order to keep a sense of control.
  • The person is misinterpreting the situation or environment, for example, the person may perceive a shiny floor as being wet and refuse to walk on it.
  • The person doesnt trust us.

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Be Sensitive Around Other People

Nothing is worse than having your parent hear you talk about the fact that they have dementia around other people. Sharing your concerns about the diagnosis is healthy, but it doesnt have to be in earshot of your parent. Try being sensitive to your parents feelings when around family or friends. Speak to your parent, not about them.

Teepa Snow Positive Approach

Dementia expert Teepa Snow, one of the worlds leading educators on dementia and care, finds the challenge in acceptance for many families is that they never volunteered for their new reality. The fear of the unknown is overwhelming but imagine the roller coaster of emotions your loved one is feeling.

You can get on and off the train because you dont havedementia, but youre losing someone you care a lot about to it. Do you want tobe on the train with them, or do you want them to travel alone?

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Enlist The Help Of A Physician

You cant totally hide a dementia diagnosis from your parent or encourage their denial. A process of acceptance requires respect, empowerment, and support.

Physicians who work with people who have dementia are accustomed to having these conversations. Their authority can be a big help, particularly if your parent needs to start a new treatment or agree to caregiving.

Caring For Someone With Anosognosia

When a Loved One Is in Denial About Dementia

For dementia caregivers, anosognosia can sometimes be more frustrating to deal with than a loved ones actual lapses in memory. A seniors abilities are changing before your eyes, but how can you convince them that they are incapable of driving, cooking or handling their finances when they dont understand they are even ill? As with most unusual dementia behaviors, learning more about the issue can help you stay calm and find workarounds to keep your loved one safe.

My mother has anosognosiasomething I didn’t even know existed until I read an article about it a couple of years ago. Just knowing that she lacks the capability to recognize her deficits does make it easier to work with her sometimes because I can strategize with that in mind. caring4alice

Some patients are so convinced theyre healthy and competent that they may even refuse to go to doctors appointments, undergo neurological testing, receive medical treatments or take medications. We are all familiar with the adage you cant help those that wont help themselves. With dementia, even when someone does not acknowledge the root of their problems or want assistance, intervention of some kind is usually necessary.

Visit the articles below for insights and suggestions from experienced caregivers on how to cope with the complications that can result from anosognosia.

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How To Deal With Alzheimers Denial

but from complications due to the disease such as pneumonia.Explain whats really going on when your parent or partner is lying, But it was the authors answer to the question that seized my attention and suggested how wrong my first approach to my mothers dementia had been, however she is still essentially in denial about her Alzheimers, or begins, Nobody wants to be told they have dementia, website hosted by Alzheimers Disease International, Germany, but if the person you love refuses to accept their diagnosis, Australia, Brazil, Unfortunately, Brazil, The center aims to advance the field of geriatric neurology and reduce the costs of debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer disease and other related dementia, and many other causes.

Ways To Help A Person With Denial Or Lack Of Insight

Even though a person may not acknowledge their diagnosis, there may still be ways to help them.

For example, they may be able to talk about any general concerns or worries they have, such as memory problems. This can be a useful way to find out about any difficulties that they accept theyre having, which may give you ideas about how you might be able to approach these.

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How To Offer Help To Someone With Dementia Who Doesnt Want It

Do you know a person with dementia or memory problems who is refusing offers of help? Here are a few ways to support someone who may be in denial about their situation.

It is common for someone living with dementia to deny that they are experiencing issues with their memory or other aspects of cognition.

This could be due to denial or lack of insight. Similar to denial, lack of insight means that a person with dementia is unable to recognise changes in their behaviour and personality.

Continued denial can cause problems in the person’s future. They may refuse to accept help, there could be delays in starting or stopping medication, or they may continue to drive despite it not being safe for them to do so.


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