It can be heartbreaking to have to take mom or dad’s driver’s license because they are unable to recognize the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Equally distressing is realizing that it is no longer safe to allow them to live independently, cook or use the stove, or run errands unsupervised. These difficult decisions must be made on behalf of the senior by someone they love, and it is never easy. Beyond that particular heartache is the fact that elderly parents often do not even realize that changes are occurring, which may indicate anosognosia.
They may have been present when the doctor delivered the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. The family may have had many conversations around what changes need to be made – but the individual dealing with the disease can’t seem to acknowledge it exists. As frustrating as it may be, your loved one is not trying to cling to independence or grasping at straws to hang on to the life they once knew. This denial is a sign of anosognosia, and it blocks the person from recognizing the decline in their cognitive skills.
How is Anosognosia Different from Alzheimer’s
By definition, Alzheimer’s is a progressive medical disease caused by a degeneration of the brain. The changes in the brain make it challenging to maintain short term memory. Most advanced Alzheimer’s patients start to regress back to their childhood because those memories are preserved in their mind, while more recent memories are not.
Anosognosia, however, is a frontal lobe condition that controls how a person perceives their own personality. Anosognosia makes it impossible for your loved one to see the changes that are happening to them and around them.
How Does Anosognosia Affect Alzheimer’s Patients?
Up to 81% of Alzheimer’s patients also suffer from Anosognosia in varying degrees. Sometimes patients will notice small changes while some will see no deficits at all. Occasionally a patient can fluctuate between being totally aware one minute and unaware the next.
Like Alzheimer’s, it can be frustrating for the family to decide how safe the person with the disease is and to what degree their disease has progressed with regards to their ability to be independent.
Helping Loved Ones Living With These Diseases
As with any disease, there are going to be good days and bad days. The amount of each is usually indicative of how much the disease has progressed. Patience is one of the essential characteristics for a caregiver to exhibit, especially with an Alzheimer’s or Anosognosia patient.
You can take proactive action to help your family and your loved ones prepare for their journey with this disease.
Open and honest communication is vital. Even if the person with the disease seemingly doesn’t understand, feeling like they are a part of the decision-making process can help them work through and be at peace with their illness.
Make plans for the disease’s progression early to avoid having to make emotional decisions down the road. Unfortunately, with Alzheimer’s there is no cure, so the condition will only continue to progress. Making plans while your loved one may still have some understanding will help everyone as time goes on.
Patience and understanding are the most important gifts you can give to your loved one as you navigate these unchartered waters together.
If you have reached that point where a professional memory care center is the best solution, call A Banyan Residence in Venice. Our caring and compassionate staff are here to help you make hard decisions, and allow your loved one to live their best life.