Are Seniors with Dementia Aware of Their Condition?

Physicians estimate that nearly six million adults in the United States have some form of dementia and that approximately half of these individuals haven’t been officially diagnosed. Seniors typically don’t see medical professionals until they or their family members notice the symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, older adults often lose the ability to comprehend they have cognitive impairment. The home care experts from Coast Care Partners, a premier provider of at-home care El Cajon families rely on for compassionate, high-quality elderly care, offer the following advice to families whose loved ones are living with dementia.


At this point, the condition is known as anosognosia, which means “to not know a disease.” Neurologist Joseph Babinski coined the term in 1914. Anosognosia is medically defined as having an inability to recognize the presence or severity of deficits. The condition occurs in 25 to 80 percent of people with dementia secondary to the physiological changes taking place within the brain. Anosognosia isn’t denial. The unawareness varies from one senior to the next. Older adults might also fluctuate between being aware and being unaware. 

Brain imaging studies of seniors with anosognosia indicate that when the frontal lobe experiences damage, an individual loses the ability to recognize cognitive changes. Thus, the senior’s mind remains stuck in the self-image of his or her mentally healthier self. The inability to understand the problem varies with the level and specific location of the damage. Anosognosia develops secondary to memory loss or the loss of critical thinking skills. When they experience reasoning and thinking deficits or become at a loss for words, seniors with dementia might simply make excuses for the impairment. As such, they may resist help when loved ones offer to assist them with activities of daily living.

Caregiver Considerations

Healthcare providers recommend that family members learn more about dementia and the caregiving skills needed to manage their loved one’s particular diagnosis. When you’re attempting to remind your loved one of the cognitive deficit, he or she may become angry or defensive and insist there is no problem. Your loved one may also maintain that he or she is perfectly capable of living independently. But be aware that his or her safety is at risk. 

If your loved one displays signs of anosognosia despite also exhibiting obvious indications of cognitive malfunction, offer support without arguing about the apparent problem. The damage occurring in the brain during this time prevents your loved one from using logic or reasoning. Consider making subtle changes to ensure your loved one’s ongoing safety. Stay positive and assist him or her as needed without being overly intrusive. Perhaps merely suggest that you have the desire to make life easier by helping with household chores and meal preparation, or express that you want to spend more quality time together. Allow your loved one to accomplish as much as he or she can while discreetly supervising activities. Also suggest that your loved one move in with you, or maybe you could live with your loved one in his or her home.

Caring for an aging loved one with dementia can be extremely challenging. Fortunately, Coast Care Partners is just a phone call away. We are a leading provider of dementia home care. El Cajon seniors and their families can benefit from our flexible care plans, which we can customize to fit each senior’s unique needs, and our caregivers are highly trained and experienced in all aspects of elderly care. Call one of our friendly representatives today at 619-354-2544.