Updated: Dec 16, 2021
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are difficult conditions for both the sufferer and family members to deal with, both due to their initial complications and others that may arise. One additional complication involved with this and other disease — particularly forms of mental or cognitive decline — is known as anosognosia, or a situation where the person living with the disease is not consciously aware that anything is wrong.
At Avamere at Mountain Ridge, we’re proud to maintain one of the top memory care communities in Utah, assisting patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia and many related conditions. We’re familiar with anosognosia and have assisted many of our guests and their caregivers with tactics for managing it. Here’s a simple primer on how this condition works and how caregivers can approach it with their loved ones.
The right part of the human brain is responsible for abstract thought and perception, and researchers believe that deterioration in this area is the primary cause of anosognosia. When this happens, the left side of the brain is forced to interpret sensory information and communicate it to the right side of the brain, which can perceive it. If the right side doesn’t receive this information or misinterpret it somehow due to its deteriorated condition, patients may not be able to grasp the full sense of what’s going on in a given setting.
As a result, people with this condition who also have Alzheimer’s or another form of memory loss will genuinely believe they’re capable of normal activities, even when their care team can see otherwise. They may also be unaware that they have issues remembering; a condition known as hypernychthemeral syndrome causes sufferers to believe they’re recalling things fine even when it’s evident to everyone around them that their memories are failing and causing them distress or pain.
How to Care for Loved Ones With Anosognosia
Just like with standard Alzheimer’s or dementia care, much of the approach for anyone dealing with anosognosia is to be empathetic and put yourself in their shoes. Trying to rationalize or explain things to them over and over won’t show success. Here are some specific strategies:
Demonstrate empathy: Caregivers may feel frustration and anger over their loved one’s behavior, but this won’t convince them that there’s a problem. Try to see things from the patient’s perspective, and explain why you believe they’re struggling with certain tasks or care routines – use simple language without judgement or accusations attached.
Organize help wisely: Caregivers should consider hiring an Alzheimer’s or dementia care manager to take a lot of the strain off their shoulders, and get help from family members so that you can still spend time with your loved one as they adjust.
Consider technology: From GPS tracking devices to other safety monitoring tools, there are a number of technology solutions that can help loved ones cope with anosognosia. Some may even double as a safety measure in the event that the person living with memory loss goes missing or wanders off without warning.
For more on caring for Alzheimer’s or other memory loss patients who also deal with anosognosia, or to learn about any of our memory care or assisted living community services, speak to the staff with Avamere at Mountain Ridge today.