Do people who have dementia like Alzheimer's understand they have dementia? - AgingCare.com

Do people who have dementia like Alzheimer's understand they have dementia?

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Are they ever aware of what is happening to them?

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It seems about half the people who are becoming demented are not aware that they are having increasing mental problems, and about half know there's something wrong with their thinking. I learned this when I attended a recent great presentation by Teepa Snow about builiding a Alzheimer aware and Alzheimer friendly community. teepasnow/Teepa Snow is a dementia and Alzheimer's care expert who trains and helps agencies, facilities, and families

If they are aware, I think there are good strategies for working with and for them. If they are not aware, or in denial, don't try to rub their noses in it. That won't help and will likely make it worse for all.

My mother's awareness seemed to come and go. Sometimes she'd pull out a clippping about Alzheimer Disease she'd saved and ask me "Is this what I have?. I want to be dead if it is." Some periods she just lived her life... not worried (no more than she'd ever done, that is). And sometimes she'd put the blame for her problems on devices she'd used for decades - a broken phone, a non-working stereo system, ...
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My husband knew that he had Lewy Body Dementia from the very beginning. At his worst moments he scarcely knew he was, let alone what conditions he had, but in his lucid moments he understood exactly what he had. If w went into a new doctor's office together he'd say, "I have Lewy Body Dementia. She's my memory. She needs to stay with me."

My mother knows she has memory problems. I don't think anyone has ever used the word dementia in her presence.

Do people with dementia know they have it?

Yes. Definitely. And until the end, if they remain lucid enough.

No. The denial mechanism is a strong defense of their welfare.

Take your pick. I've seen them both.
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I'm not sure if my late mother knew she had mental issues as everything she said/thought was reality to her and I pretty much went along with it. In the last year of her life there was a man sleeping under her bed (6" of space under there), where was her cat - a nice day it probably went outside for a walk, where would my father sleep when he visited as the nurses wouldn't know who he was - he's been gone 16 years, wanted to ask the people who bought her house if they'd sell it back to her so she could live in it - bed ridden with no furniture and no nursing care, wondered how her parents were - if alive they'd be 125 and she never lifted a finger to help them because "it's too much trouble", even though she lived around the corner, didn't work and had a big fancy car. And on and on it went. There was no reasoning with her at all .
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"She may feel she is fine...I am the competence she's lost"

I feel the same way about my mom. It's such a huge responsibility and often a thankless one due to their frustration. My mom is aware she is losing cognitive function, losing pronunciation of words and such, or losing them altogether. She doesn't say as much, but I see the fear in her eyes and how afraid she is about losing her grip. It's hard when they say that 'thingamajiggie' isn't working right and they want you to fix it but they can't find the words for the thing. It could be anything from a lamp to a TV remote to a soap dispenser.

So yes, to the OP. In my experience with my mom, they know that things are not quite right with their minds. It is heartbreaking.
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My MIL has no idea. We have told her many times, which is heart breaking for her for about a half hour then it's gone. She asks every single day. Why can't I drive? Why does the nurse have to come? If she pushes it, we tell her, but most of the time now we just stay vague and say "for your safety" or "because we love you". Sometimes I am jealous that she gets to forget. I think about it 24/7! Which I know is not healthy and something I am working on :)
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Chickiebell, that would be a good question to ask his neurologist, or whoever is managing his dementia. I would also ask if there are meds that can alleviate some of the agitation and distress.
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From what I've seen and read, it appears that, mercifully, the dementia patient is at least partially unaware of their condition. And as time goes on, they are less and less aware.
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My mother doesn't admit to anything. If she knows she has dementia, it's not something she wants others to know. So we tiptoe around the issue. Actually it is the side effects of the dementia -- the unsteady gait and falling potential -- that cause more problems than the brain deficit for her. I think the brain problems are hardest on me. It can feel like the conversations that are actually twisted are supposed to make good sense. She remembers things that never happened and rewrites things that do. Yesterday is the same as last year. There are obsessions on things that she feels explain problems she is having. She wants them fixed right now. It's like living in a land where things don't make good sense and trying to stand firm not to be thrown this way and that.

She may feel like she is fine, though. I have become the competence she's lost, so she probably feels like things are pretty normal. She and I don't talk about dementia, since it would upset her. I only correct her if it is important or drives me particularly batty.
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My husband is beginning to exhibit more agitation and anxiety with his life. He is in a home and well taken care of but refuses to get out of bed. His cognitive ability is declining but he still has the ability to communicate fairly normally. He is very belligerent with the nurses and has become irritated with me. His diagnosis is FTD. My question is......where in the stage of dementia does this type of behavior begin to manifest and worsen?
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My husband is 75 and has vascular dementia. He was diagnosed in 2011 so it has been a long time and he is way down the road. When our kids were little they blamed everything they did wrong on "Little Joe". So when he does really weird things, we blam it on the "Little Joe" part of his brain. This helps him to feel it is not him, but Little Joe. I think it helps. Just today I told him to tell his Little Joe brain to tell his Little Joe legs to move. Did it really help? Who knows. He moves when he feels he can.
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