What does it mean when aging cousin states, "I'm not conscious"?


I have an 92 year-old cousin in another stated that was brought to Thanksgiving dinner that my husband and I flew out from our hometown to make for family. Throughout dinner, she kept saying "she wasn't conscious, that she didn't know what was wrong." I told her she was, because we were talking. She ate a little, but not much, because "she wasn't conscious??". Her POA, my other 89 year-old cousin (her brother), won't acknowledge how her dementia is progressing. I'm trying to encourage her brother to look into more secure living arrangements, without success. Has anyone experienced a love one with this type of comment and what are you're thoughts? She currently lives alone with CNA/PCP assistance partially throughout the day.

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Thank you. I agree with your comments generally. I do see her every other month so I am a little more aware of her situation than my question implied. This is something new she is doing. She says it frequently I'm told by her CNA. At dinner, she said she was asleep, so she knew what she was saying. Her brother, who I have POA for, has his own physical issues and is getting to a point where his decision making is impaired. I was just curious if anyone had heard those exact words and what it could mean. I'm trying to convince my male cousin that she cannot stay by herself, but in his love for her, he doesn't like the idea of a nursing home.
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All kinds of language problems can occur in dementia. Possibly your cousin was doing a word substitution. "I am not conscious" could mean "I am not hungry" or coherent or feeling like myself or alert. If you knew what the real word was, her statement might make better sense.

Or possibly she really meant "conscious" and she was having a delusion. My husband once had a delusion that he was an airplane (I guided him in for a safe landing) and I don't find it more amazing that someone with dementia could think they are unconscious.

Whether it was a language problem or a delusion or something else, Cousin was demonstrating a dementia symptom. Poor thing. I hope that she has loving and understanding people around her.

Generally, people with dementia cannot safely live alone. "Generally" does not apply in every case under all circumstances, but it a good rule of thumb to keep in mind.

You are worried that this cousin isn't getting sufficient care at home. You may be right. But it is every hard to manage these things from a distance. It is very hard to even judge them, without seeing the person with dementia daily. She was probably at her worst in different surroundings and with extra people around. Maybe her brother has a more realistic view seeing her all the time. Or maybe he is in denial and you are more objective. Hard to say. Do you think you could convince your brother to have an objective party make a needs assessment for her?

Just based on that strange statement I don't think it is possible to draw conclusions about how advanced her dementia is.

BTW, it is generally not a good idea to argue with someone who has dementia. Instead of telling her that of course she was conscious because she was talking, it might have been more helpful to try to communicate with her. "Oh. Does that happen to you often?" In the course of the conversation you might have discovered that she meant "constipated." Just telling her "You are wrong. You are conscious," doesn't help her any, and certainly won't convince her.
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