Do people with Alzheimer’s know they have it?
Many family caregivers want to know, “do people with Alzheimer’s know they have it?”
You might be surprised to learn that some people are actually not aware that they have Alzheimer’s.
Sometimes, this is caused by a condition called anosognosia (pronounced ah-no-sog-NOH-zee-uh, hear it here).
The meaning of anosognosia is “to not know a disease” and isn’t the same as being in denial.
Anosognosia = someone who doesn’t understand something is wrong
Anosognosia causes someone to not be aware of their health condition. It’s common in some cognitive conditions, including Alzheimer’s.
So, if someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s also has anosognosia, they won’t know or believe that they have it.
Each person is unique, so the symptoms of anosognosia might vary. Symptoms may also change over time and might even change during a day.
For example, a person might sometimes understand what’s going on and other times believe that they’re absolutely fine.
Because of this inconsistent behavior, some family and friends might not even know that there’s something wrong even if they do notice that some behaviors seem unusual.
Anosognosia and denial aren’t the same thing
When someone is in denial, they’re aware of a fact, but refuse to accept it.
But with anosognosia, someone with Alzheimer’s isn’t in denial. They’re not even aware that they’re cognitively impaired.
The disease has damaged their brain and makes it impossible for them to be aware of what’s happening.
Symptoms of anosognosia
Not being aware of their cognitive impairment can show up in someone’s understanding of their own memory, general thinking skills, emotions, or physical abilities.
For example, they might have trouble with language, like not being able to find the words for common objects or simple tasks.
However, they might try to explain these situations by saying they just forget or that they’re tired.
Or, if they miss an appointment, forget to change dirty clothes, or leave food unrefrigerated, they’ll probably still make excuses and insist that there’s nothing wrong.
And even if it’s obvious to others that they need help, they’ll likely insist that they’re just fine and able to care for themselves.
They might even get angry or defensive if you remind them about their cognitive impairment because they’re absolutely convinced that there’s no problem.
Recommended for you:
- 15 Insightful Dementia Communication Tips
- 3 Stages of Dementia: What to Expect as the Disease Progresses
- Therapeutic Fibbing: Why Experts Recommend Lying to Someone With Dementia
By DailyCaring Editorial Team