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I'm just curious how much those with dementia realize or are aware of their failing mental abilities.do they all blame unseen people for stealing and eating their food?at what point is it unsafe for them to drive?

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Sorry, Windy's first sentence pretty much sums up the dementia experience. Dementia is a progressive disease. There is no cure. There are recognized stages but when they occur, how intense they are and how long they last seem to be very individualized and influenced by many factors.

My Mom is 94+ with moderate dementia. Yes, especially early in the disease, Mom was "aware" of memory problems. She would joke about her "terrible memory". Interestingly though, she has never apparently recognized the cognitive decline. There came a point when Mom could not figure out how to work the most common household appliances (the iron, the hairdryer, the TV remote, her phones, etc.). In every single case, she complained that these things "were broken". I guess the cognitive decline prevented her from seeing that she was the common denominator. And yes....all of the "broken" things were in fine working order. I found 2 of them ( the phone and TV remote) in the storage console of her car. Apparently, after Mom decided they were broken, she stashed them there, intending to take them somewhere??? to be repaired. Of course, she then forgot where they were....

The day I found the phone and TV remote I was taking Mom to a Dr. Appt. Looking for the garage opener, I opened the center console and started pulling things out. Mom's eyes got wide and she looked at me with a big smile, saying, "Oh.....I've been looking for those for ages!:" Well....we had a big, joyous laugh that now they were "found"....(And, of course, once I brought them back up to Mom's condo they worked just fine)

Re: The car and driving....WOW....probably the most common and difficult obstacle in dealing with aging parents (dementia or not). My Mom is an educated, successful, independent woman with tons of energy. In retirement she was a syndicated journalist with a weekly column, she wrote books, she had responsible positions on the boards of the Philharmonic and Historical Society, she volunteered, she was a weekly teacher's aid at the local grammar school, active in her church and on and on.....she drove herself everywhere....oh, and she is the most stubborn woman, bar none, on the face of the earth....

Well, after many emails and calls from Mom's friends re: her increasingly erratic driving, and numerous convo's with Mom (meeting nothing but resistance and outright denial) I spoke w/her excellent geratrician (yes, I have Healthcare POA, very important) and he convinced her that she had to give up driving. BUT....we made sure beforehand that she had access to regular rides....loved that the Doc was willing to have this difficult convo with Mom....it didn't just solve the immediate problem (driving) but also removed me from the role of "bad guy"....

Finally, and I do apologise for the long post, I am... so far...one of the "lucky" ones...if there even is such a thing where dementia is concerned. My Mom has certainly traversed some of the difficult stages of this disease (hiding, misplacing, losing things, accusing loved ones of stealing, calling the police for "theft", etc.) BUT, these stages have passed relatively quickly. We've all survived. We've all forgiven. We all still love Mom. She makes it easy in that she is, even as the disease progresses, inevitably, still sweet, very social, the total optimist she has been all her life, and funny as hell....

Recently, a lovely young couple (70) longtime good friends visited Mom. They sent me an email saying that they had a wonderful time and esp. Loved that Mom still had such a good sense of humor. When I asked Mom later about the visit, she laughed and said quite frankly, that she didn't remember a single thing they had talkd about....BUT....she knew they all had a great time together because they laughed and laughed the entire time....'nuff said....
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My father has dementia and he freely acknowledges that his memory is terrible and he can't remember what he did 2 minutes ago (true). In conversations, his mind is still quite logical and he can stay on topic and contribute meaningfully. But when making small talk, he tends to repeat the same questions (how far do you live from here, etc.) and has trouble remembering his way around in the board and care home where he lives. He's a WWII veteran, and took part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy. He does remember some of his Army days, but so much has been forgotten that I know most of his "war stories" much better than he does. I'm grateful that his robust sense of humor is still intact, and he can still crack me up on a regular basis. He doesn't worry about a thing, just goes from day to day and takes life as it comes. At nearly 98 years of age, he's a bit wobbly at times, but he still gets around without a walker or a cane. He'll always be my hero.
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Sorrynotsorry,
This disease has been confusing for ME! My mother is 93 and was diagnosed with Alzheimers dementia about 3 years ago. She was given the (positive) results by her doctor and was upset. We didn't talk about it much because she didn't want to. About a year later, I had to move her closer to me so I could watch out for her and take care of things she could no longer do. She lived in a senior apartment complex that served 3 meals a day and had maid service but was not assisted living. She progressed fairly fast during the next year and was in complete denial of her limitations. She still wanted the freedom of independent living but with all the assistance I was giving her. She could still fool a few, but I could tell when she was faking it. When the confusion became too much and was neglecting personal hygiene, I was scared for her safety and had to trick her to move in a memory care facility. For the first 3 months she behaved horribly, (urinating on the floor of her room, attacking me, etc.) but that has stopped. It's like she's had a reprieve, and now she speaks about her mental state as though she's her own doctor, ("I have very poor brain function, almost no memory of anything and I'm not able to function well on my own".) She never spoke of her death for all the years I've known her but now she says that she is old and ready to die. Moving her to the memory facility seems to have improved some of her perceptions. Please don't think that the dementia has improved. She still asks me the same questions 5-15 times per visit and can't remember my or my husband's names (but she knows our faces). I don't understand the 180* change from complete denial to admission of severe memory loss!
She is in Stage 5-6 according to the Alzheimer's Assoc. It is tragic to see her upset, knowing her mental status and the inability to do anything about it. She says that she "doesn't think about anything anymore, it's all empty space in there. I feel like I have no brain left." If she has to have this disease, I was hoping she could just sink into confusional bliss and not have to "see" her own decline, but that doesn't seems to be the case. So, I guess to answer your question, Do they know they are loosing it? The answer is (sadly) yes, in this case.
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If you seen one case of dementia you've seen one case of dementia. You can read hours of articles here. Check it out.

My Dad seems to be in the classic progression. He's been slowly going down hill mentally for about 6 years. The first things I noticed was his inability to fix stuff around the house. Then the short term memory started going and now long term memory is getting scrambled.

He seems to have a vague idea that his memory is not as good as it used to be but that's about as far as he would concede. If my mom were not still around to watch out for him he would need memory care or 24/7 in home supervision.

So generally, no.....People don't realise they have dementia and it's a waste of time and hurt feelings to try and convince them otherwise. We all just have to learn how to deal with it.
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Some people know in the beginning. My cousin knew she had memory problems when I first took her to the doctor for not being able to care for herself. She was diagnosed with dementia. She agreed to go to AL to help get rehab for her body and mind. When the neurologist told her she had dementia, she seemed to understand, though, she didn't seem devastated. When we left, she told me that she just hated to lose the memories of her parents, because they were such awesome people. (They really were.) Now, she doesn't remember any of that. She has no idea of what she has or where she is. If I told her that she had dementia, she would likely not even know what I mean. It seems that in her mind, everything is just fine, though, I'm sure she gets frustrated with being in a wheelchair or having to wear diapers.
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My precious Ila has dementia. She has days of great clarity. One day she told me, "you know, when you lose half your memory you lose half of your self".
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Yes, my mother knew she was losing it. Most of the time she was in denial, but occasionally, when she did something that was obviously, even in her mind, not a smart thing to do - she would say "I'm losing it". When she did that, it would break my heart because sometimes she would cry a little. It must have been so frightening to know she was not the same, and I could tell she felt helpless.
Other times, she was not aware and would very strongly argue about something she imagined and I could tell she truly believed what she was saying.
Dementia is something we all fear because it is sneaky.
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My Dad, who is 94, has age related memory issues, and he will tell us his brain isn't working as well as it use to as he has trouble remembering things.

When is it unsafe for someone with dementia to drive? When they start having a lot of minor fender benders and/or get lost too many times while driving.
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Yeah, it's kind of hard to know what it's like with others. My mother in law had a personality disorder. She has always had dillusional of grandeur. She has never been wrong about anything. Very desperate for attention, knows every celebrity, politician, has experienced everything, held every career position etc. that's why it took us so long to clue into the fact that this is dementia.
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My mom is 92 and my mom knows that she has memory issues but the most trying is when they try to convince you that everything is fine and they are still independent and don't need help and then right after ask you to help them to the bathroom because they cannot remember where it is. My mom told me once that she did not feel like a person anymore and this was so heartbreaking. She has told me that she doesn't have a handle on time anymore and that she just lives day to day because she doesn't know what tomorrow will bring. She said you don't live for a future anymore. The day she told me that I cried all the way to work. So they do know they have the memory loss.
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