Is there anything more difficult? Your loved one doesn’t remember things, makes bad decisions, doesn’t interact with people as they used to and emphatically denies any problem! It may be a refusal to face reality but it could also be a medical condition. Damage to the brain can make it difficult or even impossible for the affected individual to recognize impairment. Anosognia, an unawareness of decline, is common with stroke survivors or those suffering from Dementia.
For you, it doesn’t matter if your loved one is in denial or has Anosognia. You are the one seeing some or all of the following:
• Anger at those who express concern or point out forgetfulness
• Inability to handle daily tasks
• Poor decision making
• Insisting on driving when they shouldn’t
• Lack of personal hygiene
• Out of character behavior, including lack of impulse control
• Making up things
So what do you do? You can’t ignore it and you want to help. Watching the decline of your loved one and caring for him or her will be one of the hardest things you will ever do. There are some things you can do to make it a little easier.
• Breathe and remember, they aren’t doing it on purpose
• Don’t try to point out the impairment, it will not help
• Minimize their responsibilities: take over bill paying, meal preparation, errands and laundry
• Treat statements, even those you know are wrong, with respect and then move on
• Narrow activity choices. Rather than asking an open ended question, provide one or two options
• Create structure. A daily routine is very important
• Ask for help if you need it. Sticking to the daily routine may require some outside help
• Talk to the doctor and express your concerns. Look into support services in your community
• Don’t try and do it all yourself!
The time may come when safety requires a change. Ideally there have been regular conversations and even tours of assisted living communities. But if not, be as gentle and positive as you can be. Remember, your loved one may not agree there is a problem. Talking about opportunities for a more social lifestyle will work better than arguing over whether they can or should live alone.
For further guidance on how to navigate through declining health and denial of your loved one, contact INALA today at (317) 733-2390 or exdir@INAssistedLiving.org.