Published On: Mon, Jan 4th, 2021

Caring for a Patient with Anosognosia

You could be forgiven for never having heard of the term Anosognosia but it is something which has been well known within the sphere of medicine and science for many years. In fact, there have been studies into this condition dating back to the late 19th century.

What is Anosognosia?

In simple terms it is a lack of awareness or a denial of one’s medical condition and is seen in some dementia patients and indicates a degree of brain damage which could have resulted from a stroke, but not always. For example, a person who has this condition may have severe short term memory loss which may manifest in things like them forgetting how to work everyday items like the TV remote control or the phone. Or they may forget how to drive to certain places they knew well. Their physical abilities could deteriorate, or language skills desert them.

Many patients in the initial stages of dementia do understand that there is something wrong but someone with Anosognosia doesn’t, or flatly refuses to. They will insist that they’re absolutely fine. To make things worse, because they are in denial they refuse to take any medication prescribed for them. 

This is a challenging situation which needs careful handling by those who care for a person with this condition. The average layperson could easily become frustrated by what they perceive to be the ‘stubbornness’ of their loved one who denies there is anything wrong; a specialist in home care services however is trained to deal with situations like this.  

photo/ StockSnaplder

Ways to Help Someone Who Doesn’t Realise They are Ill

Anosognosia is a long term condition which can be managed with the right attitude and help from medical services but as with all other health conditions which affect the elderly, the basics of caring for those with long term illness are the same – a healthy diet, exercise and good sleep.

Studies have shown that some sufferers can become depressed and anxious because of the confusion about their jumbled thought processes. It can be frightening and distressing for them and you may find that their mood changes from day to day.

Don’t try to convince them that they have dementia as this will add to the upset they’re feeling and may provoke feelings of hostility or anger towards you. Instead, stay calm and make changes to make their life as safe and uncomplicated as possible for instance by taking over any driving or DIY duties. Devise creative solutions for their needs, for example if they want to walk outside don’t tell them they can’t because they may get lost but instead suggest taking a walk together.

Avoid confrontation and the temptation to keep correcting them. Those experienced in dementia care recommend that the way to keep a patient calm and cooperative is by working with how they are rather than how you think they should be. This means understanding that their brain no longer thinks in the same way as yours does.

Liaise closely with their doctor or healthcare team. If there is in-home care in place, work together with the care team. 

Author: Joanne Jeffries

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