Navigating the ins and outs of illness and disease can be difficult for both the diagnosed and their families. Caring for and supporting those living with a memory disease or illness is especially difficult because many of the diagnosed also suffer from anosognosia (pronounced uh-naa-suh-now–zhuh), or the lack of awareness of impairment. What happens when those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia are unable to understand and acknowledge their own illness? At Carespring, we are always looking for ways to inform our residents and their families. Here’s what you need to know about anosognosia and how to best care for your loved one if they are diagnosed:
What is anosognosia?
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, anosognosia occurs when “someone is unaware of their own mental condition or are unable to perceive their condition accurately.” Anosognosia is common in those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or Schizophrenia, or after someone has experienced a traumatic brain injury.
Anosognosia vs. Denial
Anosognosia can look similar to—and is often confused with—denial. Unlike denial, anosognosia patients are completely unaware of their illness during serious relapses, however, some people may experience different and changing levels of awareness. To help you spot anosognosia in your loved one, here are some common signs you can look for:
- Those living with anosognosia might have the tendency to be more adventurous and less concerned with risk without noticing or recognizing the change in their behavior.
- Patients often confuse past events with present situations and often give fabricated answers to questions.
- When confronted with symptoms of anosognosia—forgetfulness, making poor decisions, and lack of self-hygiene—patients often become angry and irritable.
- Patients are usually unable to manage their finances alone.
How can you help someone with anosognosia?
Care for anosognosia patients is delicate due to their inability to fully comprehend the extent of their symptoms. Here are some tips to help you give your elder care:
- Create a schedule of activities for each day. Be sure to include meal and medicine times, when to bathe and other extracurricular activities to keep your elder healthy. Try hanging a calendar on the wall so your loved one is sure to see the schedule each day. Regularity and routine help those with diseases and illnesses that effect memory.
- Help patients with big tasks like managing finances, scheduling appointments, travel and cooking. Independence is hard to give up, so make sure you work on these tasks together as a team as much as possible.
- If you feel frustrated when your loved one is unable to comprehend their illness, stay calm. The best thing to do is to gently articulate your thoughts with compassion and respect.
Coping with illness is difficult no matter the diagnosis. Understanding how to assist your loved one through illness and recovery is the most important step. At Carespring skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities in Cincinnati, Dayton and Northern Kentucky, we aim to give you and your family the support you need to live a healthy and happy lifestyle.