Dealing With A Parent Who Denies Dementia Symptoms
Is Dad or Mom having difficulty remembering appointments or names? Or getting lost coming home from the grocery store? You may notice it is becoming more difficult to have a conversation as your parent becomes confused and cant find the words to finish a sentence.
The signs of dementia are obvious to you, but when you mention the possibility to your parent, they deny the dementia symptoms and refuse to get help. What can you do?
Its important to understand the two main reasons why a parent would deny dementia symptoms:
Legal Issues: Caring For Parents With Dementia
Created by FindLaw’s team of legal writers and editors| Last updated May 17, 2021
Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other disorders that cause dementia have become more common among aging adults. While any form of memory loss is emotionally devastating for everyone involved, dementia can present extraordinary challenges for older adults and their families when drafting a will, making health care decisions, and taking care of other legal and financial matters.
Moreover, it is often the children of dementia-affected adults who end up making decisions on their behalf. But it is important for family members to understand the legal and financial implications of their actions.
The following factors should be considered when assessing your loved one’s mental capacity for making important legal, financial, and health-related decisions.
What Is Dementia And What Causes It
Dementia is a syndrome that causes a person to develop difficulty and problems with their memory or their ability to think. Unlike the normal changes that happen in a persons memory and thinking over time, dementia affects someones ability to function in their daily life activities and their normal routine .There are different causes of dementia. These causes are typically underlying neurological conditions . One common cause of dementia is Alzheimers disease. Other causes include diseases that impact brain blood vessels. For example, strokes may cause what is commonly termed Vascular Dementia. Some causes include Lewy Body Disease and Parkinsons disease.
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Signs Your Parent Needs To Be Tested
Just because your parent might be starting to forget things every now and then doesnât mean Alzheimerâs disease or another type of dementia is the cause. However, itâs important to be on the lookout for changes that arenât a normal part of the aging process. According to the National Institute on Aging and Mayo Clinic, these are early signs of more serious memory problems:
- Repeating questions
- Mixing up wordsâusing the wrong word to identify something
- Taking longer to complete familiar tasks
- Getting lost in familiar area
- Not being able to follow directions
- Changes in mood or behavior
- Confusion about time, people and places
- Neglecting personal hygiene
Your parent should see a doctor if he or she is experiencing these problems. Itâs important for him or her to be tested to see if symptoms are due to Alzheimerâs, another type of dementia or something else entirely. Dementia-like symptoms can be caused by depression, sleep apnea, thyroid problems, vitamin deficiencies, medication side effects or excessive alcohol consumptionâall of which can be helped with treatment.
Although there is no cure for Alzheimerâs disease, an early diagnosis will allow your parent to get treatment that can lessen symptoms. Plus, it will give you and your parent more time to discuss what sort of care he or she wants and to make a plan to pay for that care.
Beware Of Home Tests For Dementia And Alzheimers
Be skeptical of tests marketed to consumers. These home tests arent proven to be scientifically accurate. Worse, they can give false positives. The test result may show dementia when the patient doesnt have it.
A doctor is unlikely to diagnose dementia or Alzheimers if the patient doesnt have it. Diagnosis may take several months or even years. A person with memory problems should see the doctor every 6 to 12 months.
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Could My Loved One Be Faking Dementia
No one wants to believe that their loved one has dementia, and because no single test can conclusively diagnose all forms of dementia, it can be difficult to get an accurate diagnosis. Thus, many people believe that their loved one might be faking. A number of unique dementia features can compound this belief. Those include:
- The fact that dementia is inconsistent. A person may be better on some days and worse on others.
- Personality changes associated with dementia. You might mistakenly believe that the problem is depression, or that your loved one is being manipulative.
- Dementia tends to get worse at night. This is called sundowning.
Capacity To Make And Execute A Will
The mental ability to make and execute a will is called “testamentary capacity.” Wills often are challenged when it is suspected the “testator” — the person who signed the will — lacked testamentary capacity at the time .
Statutes and case law may vary among different jurisdictions, but testamentary capacity generally requires that the testator was aware of the following when signing the will:
- The extent and value of their property
- Those who are the natural beneficiaries of their estate
- The disposition he or she is making
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Information For Your Doctor
Itâs a good idea to put together the following for your first appointment:
- A list of symptoms — include everything youâre feeling, even if you donât think it could be related to dementia
- Any sources of major stress or recent life changes
- A list of all medications you take, including vitamins and supplements, and the dosage
- A list of any questions you have
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.
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How The Sage Test For Dementia Works
SAGE stands for Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination and was developed by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
The SAGE test has 12 questions that cover all aspects of cognition, including memory, problem solving, and language.
There are 4 different versions of the test. Theyre similar enough, but having multiple versions means that someone could take the test once a year and wouldnt improve their score each year just from the practice of taking it before.
This way, the test is slightly different each time.
I’d Like To Learn More About How To Care For My Loved One With Dementia Do You Offer A Course I Can Attend
Our training courses provide valuable skills and support, and complement Dementia Australia’s other services.
We offer timely skills and knowledge in a supportive environment. Our educators are highly qualified and their experience in providing dementia care means they understand your needs.
Visit our Learning section of this website for more information about the courses which you can attend in each state or territory.
For more information call our National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
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But What About Preventative Stuff
Finally, it depends on what type of appointment. Begin with the end in mind when it comes to specialty appointments and testing. Im not in any way saying people living with dementia deserve anything less in the way of care than anyone else.
What I am saying is theyre typically more medically fragile , and thats something that deserves consideration. Think carefully about routine mammograms, Pap smears, colonoscopies, and the like.
Difficulty Completing Normal Tasks
A subtle shift in the ability to complete normal tasks may indicate that someone has early dementia. This usually starts with difficulty doing more complex tasks like balancing a checkbook or playing games that have a lot of rules.
Along with the struggle to complete familiar tasks, they may struggle to learn how to do new things or follow new routines.
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Preparing For The Appointment
Congratulations, you made the appointment! Now, you need to devise a plan for appointment day.
Youre probably a combination of relieved and anxious as you set about developing a plan. Youre likely imagining all the problems this doctor appointment will solve. You may be thinking of it as a game-changer.
As youre subconsciously pinning all your hopes and dreams on this one appointment, let me be the party-pooper who brings you back down to earth. Youre better servedas is your parent or partnerby keeping your expectations low enough you cant trip over them.
Sounds pessimistic, sure. That, and it helps avoid an emotional rollercoaster of unrealistic expectations and bad outcomes later. So, devise a great plan. Work your plan to the best of your ability. Just dont plan your results.
First Step: Physical Exam
The first step is a physical exam. The doctor takes a medical history. The doctor needs information like past illnesses, current medications, and past family history.
Be candid with the doctor. Dont hold back information involving drug or alcohol abuse. Tell them if the parents nutrition is poor. Do they eat all processed foods and junk? Tell the doctor.
The doctor takes blood and urine samples for routine tests. He tests for thyroid abnormalities, diabetes, and other conditions.
There are several reversible causes of dementia. These include:
- Infection such as AIDS or syphilis
The doctor first rules out any possible reversible physical causes of cognitive decline. Upon finding a physical condition, the doctor will treat that first.
If there are no physical problems, the doctor moves on to other tests.
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Dementia Care Tips From Experienced Caregivers
Caring for someone with dementia isnt intuitive and doesnt come naturally. Theres a lot to learn, but you dont have to figure everything out the hard way.
In a helpful article at Verywell, social worker Esther Heerema shares 12 dementia care tips that caregivers have learned and wished theyd known sooner.
This advice isnt meant to add pressure or expectations to your already tough job. Theyre tips from caregivers who have been there and done that that can lighten your load, reduce stress, and help you cope with the challenges.
Here, we share highlights from Esthers article along with some of our own insights.
1. Its not worth it to argue with someone who has dementiaAlzheimers and dementia causes your older adults brain to malfunction. When they say things that dont make sense or are clearly untrue, they believe what theyre saying because its what their brain is telling them.
Its frustrating to hear things that arent true and instinctive to try to correct or remind. But that will only lead to both of you arguing or getting upset. And you simply cant win an argument with someone who can no longer use reason or logic consistently.
2. Ignoring symptoms wont make them go awayWhen you notice your older adult struggling with memory, thinking, or judgement, its scary to think that they might have dementia. Because it can be so hard to accept, many people hope that the symptoms will go away on their own or that theyre mistaken.
What Causes Dementia
The causes of Alzheimers and related dementias can vary, depending on the types of brain changes that may be taking place. While research has found that some changes in the brain are linked to certain forms of dementia, in most cases, the underlying causes are unknown. Rare genetic mutations may cause dementia in a relatively small number of people.
Although there is no proven prevention, in general, leading a healthy lifestyle may help reduce risk factors that have been associated with these diseases.
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When To See A Doctor
Forgetfulness and memory problems dont automatically point to dementia. These are normal parts of aging and can also occur due to other factors, such as fatigue. Still, you shouldnt ignore the symptoms. If you or someone you know is experiencing a number of dementia symptoms that arent improving, talk with a doctor.
They can refer you to a neurologist who can examine you or your loved ones physical and mental health and determine whether the symptoms result from dementia or another cognitive problem. The doctor may order:
- a complete series of memory and mental tests
- a neurological exam
- brain imaging tests
If youre concerned about your forgetfulness and dont already have a neurologist, you can view doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.
Dementia is more common in people over the age of 65, but it can also affect younger people. Early onset of the disease can begin when people are in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. With treatment and early diagnosis, you can slow the progression of the disease and maintain mental function. The treatments may include medications, cognitive training, and therapy.
Possible causes of dementia include:
Medical Conditions That Can Mimic Dementia
While memory loss is a common symptom of many kinds of dementia, changes in memory alone are not sufficient for a diagnosis. Doctors will diagnose an individual with dementia only if two or more brain functionssuch as memory and language skillsare significantly impaired. Some of the diseases that cause symptoms of dementia are Alzheimers disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, Huntingtons disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Doctors have identified other medical conditions that can cause dementia or dementia-like symptoms, including reactions to medications, normal pressure hydrocephalus, metabolic problems and endocrine abnormalities, nutritional deficiencies, urinary tract infections , brain tumors, anoxia or hypoxia , and heart and lung problems. Even hospitalization and surgeries can cause changes in a seniors mental state, which may be temporary or permanent.
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What Are Some Warning Signs Of Dementia
Any change in a loved ones ability to think or make decisions warrants a conversation and a trip to the doctor. Some of the most common warning signs of Alzheimers include:
- Difficulty planning, solving problems, or completing basic tasks, such as finishing a familiar recipe.
- Memory loss that affects daily life. For instance, a senior might forget their keys so frequently that they no longer feel safe leaving their home alone.
- Confusing time or place, such as by thinking they are in a different time or location.
- Increasingly poor judgment.
- Forgetting familiar people.
Many people see Alzheimers and dementia as synonymous, but Alzheimers is just one manifestation of dementia. Symptoms of other types of dementia can include:
- Memory loss or thinking changes associated with a cardiovascular problem, such as stroke or high blood pressure.
- Word-finding difficulties.
- Difficulty reading, writing, or understanding language.
- Sudden changes in personality. For example, a once reserved senior might become impulsive or aggressive.
- New or worsening mood issues, such as anxiety or depression.
- Changes in movement. Seniors with Parkinsons may shake, while those with frontotemporal dementia may have a slow or unsteady gait.
Top Tips For Dealing With A Parent Who Denies Dementia Symptoms
Top Tips for Dealing With a Parent Who Denies Dementia Symptoms
According to the World Health Organization, there are over 50 million people living with dementia. It is the leading cause of a loss of independence in seniors and one of the hardest diseases to accept.
So what do you do when your aging parent refuses to admit there is a problem?
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Get Your Parent/partner Ready
However long it takes you to get ready, double that number and tack on an extra 15 minutes. Throw on an extra 15 for unforeseen circumstances. Now youre in the ballpark.
Rather than being left to their own devices, most people need cueing and reminders to successfully get through the morning routine. For a detailed example sequence on how to do that, see Potty Talk: Successfully Navigating The Bathroom.
If Youre Worried About Possible Dementia
Lets say youre like the man I spoke to recently, and youre worried that an older parent might have dementia. Youre planning to have a doctor assess your parent. Heres how you can help the process along:
- Obtain copies of your parents medical information, so you can bring them to the dementia evaluation visit. The most useful information to bring is laboratory results and any imaging of the brain, such as CAT scans or MRIs. See this post for a longer list of medical information that is very helpful to bring to a new doctor.
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