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When They Don't Believe They Have Dementia

Uncategorized May 26, 2020


Hello Careblazers,

Welcome back!

Today I want to talk about what to do in the very common situation of your LOWD not believing that they have dementia. 

So many Careblazers talk to me about their loved ones being in denial and thinking everything is fine. I’ve sat with Caregivers in the past who have pleaded with me to “convince” their loved one that they have dementia. 

In today’s video, I want to give an explanation

1- Of why your loved one doesn’t believe anything is wrong and 

2- How to stop wanting to convince them something is wrong with them

Before I get started, I want to welcome any new Careblazers welcome. My name is Dr. Natali, I’m a board certified geropsychologist. I also have a YouTube channel Careblazers TV, where you can watch videos on any of these topics. It is the place where we talk about everything dementia. If you would rather watch my video on this topic, click here

Okay, let’s get started. 

Firstly, some people who have dementia know they have dementia, or at least they know something is wrong with their brain. This may lead to them feeling down, frustrated, or trying to hide the fact that anything is wrong because they realize something is off. 

However, many people who have dementia have something called anosagnosia. This means they don’t believe anything is wrong with them and what this looks like to you, is denial. But it’s different than denial

In denial, there is the possibility that someone might change their mind and realize something is wrong with them. 

In anosagnosia, there is literally no chance that the person with dementia will ever come to the realization that something is wrong. You can try to convince, argue, reason, show them all the test results, and all the evidence of things they can’t do and they STILL won’t believe anything is wrong. The connection in the brain that allows a person to understand that things have changed and that things are different doesn’t exist. It’s broken. 

So let’s talk about how you can get to a place where you stop trying to convince them that something is wrong. 

Many people who want to convince their loved one something is wrong do so because they are trying to get their loved one to cooperate more/to be more accepting of help. 

For example, you may want them to stop asking to come home when they are in a nursing home and telling you nothing is wrong with them and they can live alone.

You might want them to stop fighting with you to get the car keys because they aren’t safe to drive any more. 

You might be trying to get them to stop giving you a hard time for taking over their finances because they can’t manage their money any more and have been a victim of scams. 

I can go on and on with all the various different reasons a caregiver might try to convince their loved one they have dementia. And it’s usually because you want them to change their difficult behavior. 

The problem with this approach when you are working with someone who has anosagnosia is that the more you try to convince them, the more evidence you show them, the more you try to reason, the more likely you will be faced with even more push back and resistance. 

You are doing something in an attempt to make them more cooperative, yet it is literally having the opposite effect. It’s making them more argumentative toward you, more frustrated with you, and wearing away at the relationship. All of this will make future caregiving attempts more difficult. 

There’s so many different times in dementia where the very things we do, in an attempt to make things better, actually has the opposite effect. In dementia, it’s like learning a new language, a new way of communication that still accomplishes the goal you are trying to achieve (i.e., not driving, accepting nursing home care, removing access to their finances), BUT doesn't lead to the arguing and tension that will make your life more difficult. 

It takes time, patience, and trial and error but you can do it. I’ve done many videos on this in the past and these types of situations are something we talk about often inside my care course live weekly question and answer sessions. But for starters, what I want you to focus on now is that, your loved one literally doesn’t have the ability to believe they have dementia and your attempts to change their mind is hurting your relationship.  

I hope this helps you understand why it’s so hard to get them to get your loved one to be agreeable to what you want them to do and accept.

This is hard stuff, Careblazer. Be kind to yourself. Keep up the great work. And i’ll be back next week.


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