A large number of persons affected by Alzheimer’s disease, other forms of dementia, strokes, mental illness, and traumatic brain injuries are unaware of being sick. Many will claim there’s nothing wrong with them, and if anyone’s sick, it’s the person bringing up the problem.
This is naturally hard for family members and friends who can be accused of all sorts of things. Some live in denial, but there is a physical condition called anosognosia that can be the culprit.
Anosognosia stems from anatomical damage to the brain creating a lack of self-awareness, and the condition affects up to 80 percent of persons with Alzheimer’s. The person can be completely unaware of problems with memory, general thinking skills, emotions, and body control. They feel no urge to try to compensate for problems, because they don’t know the problems exist.
This is naturally very hard for caregivers and family who are struggling to help someone convinced they’re fine and don’t need help. The person with anososognia is likely to react with anger when confronted about their problems. They don’t want a medical evaluation or treatment, because there isn’t anything wrong.
Signs and Symptoms of Anosognosia
Signs of anosognosia can include problems keeping up with daily tasks, difficulty managing bills and money, and becoming angry or overly defensive when confronted with their forgetfulness. Confabulation is another common sign. This means that someone makes up answers they truly believe are true. It’s not a conscious lie; it’s an attempt of the brain to fill in information that should be there.
To make the situation easier, voice your thoughts in a subtle way, and keep it positive. It’s often helpful to work together on cleaning, money matters, and similar things. Formulate sentences in a way that makes it easy for the person to say yes, like, “Let’s work on this together.”
There are varying levels of anosognosia. Some persons retain some self-awareness, but might not understand the extent of their problems. Others are completely unaware of anything being wrong.