What is Anosognosia?

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Anosognosia is the medical term for when people with serious illnesses aren’t aware they have the condition. This most commonly occurs in people with mental illnesses, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. However, it can also occur in older adults with dementia. When a senior has anosognosia, they aren’t just being stubborn about their diagnosis. Instead, their brain is incapable of recognizing the fact that they have an illness.

Why Do People Get Anosognosia?

Doctors think that anosognosia is caused by damage to the frontal lobe of the brain. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that helps people to process information about themselves. For example, when you change something about your appearance, like your hair, the frontal lobe processes that information and affects how you think about yourself. If the frontal lobe is damaged, the older adult may be unable to process the diagnosis they have received and does not associate with themselves.

Anosognosia can sometimes come and go. This means that your aging relative may sometimes be aware that they have dementia. At other times they may be completely unaware of the condition and insist they do not have it. For some people, though, anosognosia is complete and they are never able to recognize their condition.

How Can Caregivers Handle Anosognosia in Dementia?

Whether your older family member never realizes they have dementia or sometimes does, dealing with anosognosia adds another challenge for caregivers. Here are some things that may help:

  • Don’t Argue: There’s no sense in trying to convince the senior that they have dementia or arguing with them about it. They cannot comprehend the idea and are likely to get upset. Instead, make subtle and gradual changes to help them live with the condition.
  • Inform Others: Make sure that all those who work with the older adult are aware of the anosognosia, including family caregivers, elder care providers, and medical professionals.
  • Be Creative: Because your aging relative doesn’t know they have dementia, they may try to do things that are unsafe as the disease progresses. For example, they might try to drive after they are no longer capable. Instead of trying to tell them you are taking their keys away because of dementia, look for creative ways to discontinue their driving instead. Try to make the change seem like a positive thing that makes their life easier.

Elder care can make the burden of caring for someone with anosognosia in dementia easier. Breaks from caregiving are important as they will help you to maintain your physical and emotional health. While you are taking a break, an elder care provider can stay with the senior to ensure they remain safe. Because elder care providers are trained and experienced, they know techniques for working with seniors who have dementia, whether they know it or not.


If you or an aging loved one is considering home care in Sterling, VA, please contact the caring staff at Assisting Hands today. (703) 782-3655.