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The Denial of Dementia

In my experience I have only come across one symptom of dementia that appears to be contagious . . . and that is the mindset of denial.

It is quite common to find denial running rampant among the family members of the ones diagnosed with dementia. But even more often, it is discovered to be coming right from the ones experiencing dementia themselves!

“We all get a little forgetful once in a while,” can often be heard coming from both sides of the fence. Beliefs like this can be very dangerous. Allowing those with dementia behind the wheel or sanctioning their refusal to see a doctor can lead to disaster. It’s vital that we find a way to make reality sink in before it’s too late.

Understandably, most folks are afraid to go to their doctor and discuss what symptoms they’re experiencing. They’re terrified they may hear the “A Word”: Alzheimer’s. If this sounds like someone you know, you may corroborate with him or her that something else might be going on. There could be a vitamin B deficiency, a thyroid problem, an infection, possibly even a reaction to medications. It may not necessarily be the “big A.”

Of course, it very well can be. And the family and friends of those diagnosed need to provide as much support as possible. Educating family members and the general public is crucial. Dementia is not necessarily a natural part of aging. The occurrence of dementia is a sign that there is something, or a lack of something, in the human body causing it. Yes, we do get a little more forgetful when we get older, but that is not, in itself, dementia.

As human beings, we tend to use denial as a safety mechanism. It reminds me of the quirky metaphor of the elephant being in the room; if we don’t acknowledge it, it’s simply not there. Well, it is there and we need to start talking about Alzheimer’s and dementia openly. The more we discuss it, the more others will learn. The great hope is that when people are better educated, denial will naturally start slipping away.

Advocating and fighting against dementia-related diseases includes educating the public to be aware of all the disabilities involved with the disease. This also means educating physicians and medical professionals as well.

With an early and proper diagnosis, patients can immediately be prescribed the correct treatment or therapy. They and each family member can plan ahead, starting off with an immediate, concise, and effective plan of attack. Let’s get them to their doctor early.

Gary LeBlanc is an author and Dementia Care Specialist. He provides valuable training for caregivers and families, as well as for the staff at Sunshine Gardens.

If your loved one is affected by memory impairment or dementia, contact us. We are here to help.