Does someone with dementia know they have it?
Families often ask “are dementia patients aware of their condition?”
In some cases, the short answer is no, they’re not aware they have dementia or Alzheimer’s.
This can be caused by a condition called anosognosia (pronounced ah-no-sog-NOH-zee-uh, hear it here).
Anosognosia means “to not know a disease” and is not the same as being in denial.
What is anosognosia?
Anosognosia is a condition that causes someone to be unaware of their mental health condition and how it affects them.
It’s common in some conditions, including dementia.
So, someone who has been diagnosed with dementia, but has anosognosia, doesn’t know or believe that they have dementia.
Anosognosia symptoms may be very different from person to person, change over time, and might even change within a day.
The person might sometimes understand what’s happening and other times firmly believe that they’re completely fine.
And other people might only be partially aware that there’s something wrong.
Is anosognosia the same as denial?
No, when someone is in denial, they’re aware of a fact, but refuse to accept it.
Someone who has anosognosia in dementia isn’t in denial – it’s something different.
With anosognosia, the dementia has caused damage in their brain that makes it impossible for that person to be aware of what’s happening to them.
The unawareness of cognitive impairment can be related to memory, general thinking skills, emotions, or physical abilities.
The person might have trouble with language, like finding words, but they’re likely to explain these situations with excuses about forgetfulness or being tired.
If they forget to bathe, miss appointments, or burn food on the stove, they’re still likely to make excuses and insist that they don’t need help.
They’ll probably also insist that they’re capable of living on their own and taking care of themselves – despite clear evidence that things are not OK.
Someone with anosognosia might get angry and defensive if someone reminds them about their cognitive impairment because, in their mind, they’re absolutely convinced that there’s no problem.
Recommended for you:
- Therapeutic Fibbing: Why Experts Recommend Lying to Someone With Dementia
- 3 Stages of Dementia: What to Expect as the Disease Progresses
- 9 Best Alzheimer’s and Dementia Books for Caregivers
By DailyCaring Editorial Team