What to do if Loved Ones are Unaware They Have Dementia

Dementia careBeing the family caregiver for someone with dementia can be a difficult role. What can make it even more challenging is when the loved one being cared for is in denial of his or her condition. According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, many Alzheimer’s disease and dementia sufferers have what is called anosognosia, which is defined as a lack of awareness or insight that one is impaired.

Anosognosia is a common diagnosis in those with mental illnesses, like schizophrenia, and is also found often in stroke victims. It’s difficult to know exactly what causes this condition, but researchers have discovered that when there is damage or deterioration to the frontal lobe of the brain, which controls our perception and how we organize information, anosognosia can occur frequently.

Dementia Care Tips for Anosognosia

When loved ones are unaware of their dementia, proper treatment can become increasingly difficult. The person may not realize the need for medical care, or outright refuse it. Some of the common dementia symptoms include anger or defensiveness when you try to confront them about their condition, or spontaneous, out of character behavior. You may begin to notice a decline in your loved one’s personal hygiene, or notice problems with daily tasks, like doing the dishes or laundry. Also, many dementia sufferers may begin to make up stories they believe are true, or rewrite history to fill in the missing details they can’t remember.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to distinguish whether your loved one is simply in denial over their situation or if they sincerely aren’t acknowledging the dementia.  Regardless, your role as a caregiver is to provide them with the help they need, even when they don’t believe they need any help at all. It’s important to realize your efforts to make your loved one understand their condition may be futile, but you still need to keep them safe.

Here are just a few dementia care tips to keep in mind when a loved one has anosognosia:

  • Stick to a schedule. Set up a daily routine and stick to it. This provides structure for the dementia sufferer, and can also allow the caregiver to have some down time to recover from caregiving tasks.
  • Use positive communication. When speaking to your loved one about his or her condition, use gentle and empathetic words. Be as encouraging as possible when helping with daily tasks and seeing them through to completion.
  • Work together. Allow your loved one to feel a level of control by working with him or her on necessary tasks like cleaning or personal hygiene.
  • Minimize responsibilities. Take over some of the responsibilities for your loved one, like balancing the checkbook and paying bills on time, helping with meal preparation, and running errands.
  • Seek outside help. If taking on so many of your loved one’s responsibilities is becoming increasingly difficult to manage, hire a home health aide or look into memory care communities that specialize in dementia treatment.

For more information about memory care through Auguste’s Cottage at American Senior Communities, please visit www.ASCSeniorCare.com/ac.

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