Caregiver Concerns

Denial: A Caregiver Danger (and How to Cure It)

Because nobody wants a loved one to have dementia, caregivers are vulnerable to a particular kind of denial that's both self-protective -- and ultimately dangerous. That denial causes a caregiver to go along with the person's insistence that there's "nothing wrong." We let them drive far longer than is safe. We neglect to safeguard finances. We continue to ask them to babysit when they lack the wherewithal to make decisions in a crisis.

The cure for denial is simple truth. Here's what this looks like:

  • Keep adjusting to a "new normal." It's natural to err on the side of wanting to keep everything as much the same as possible. But the reality is that the definition of normal must be continually revised.

  • Consider the bigger picture. It's not just about your loved one's life. Consider the safety of your loved one and others who might be affected, such as children being cared for or innocent pedestrians on the road.

  • Stay informed. You probably learned a lot about dementia initially, but it's important to stay ahead of the curve and keep learning about what's coming next. Most forms of dementia are progressive, which means every month can bring changes.


over 2 years ago, said...

Remember that denial is discovered, not chosen. For me, it felt like this (from Caregiver Carols: a Musical, Emotional Memoir): VILE DENIAL Verses: I knew my words were often hateful, sometimes even vile. I didn’t know the reasons why ‘cause I was in denial. I didn’t realize my anger covered up my grieving, For all the losses in my life: my wife who’s slowly leaving. I wish I’d been aware of this and maybe then not blow it, But you can’t know what you don’t know, until at last you know it. Chorus: A frog will stay put in a pan with slowly rising heat. He doesn’t know his goose is cooked until you’ve fried his feet. A cozy cage is hard to vacate, ‘least not for awhile. You don’t get out ‘cause you don’t know you’re stuck in deep denial. Verses: I saw how I was acting mean, not usually my style. I didn’t see the reasons why ‘cause I was in denial. I wasn’t clear my ugliness had camouflaged my grief, For losing my dear wife to to strife from her disabling thief. I wish I’d had more insight here and maybe then not flee it, But you can’t see what you don’t see, until at last you see it. Chorus: A closed-up idling car’s exhaust can slowly hurt your head. You don’t know you’re in fatal slumber ‘til you wake up dead. A snuggy snare is tough to leave, it doesn’t vex or rile. You don’t get out until you see you’re stuck in deep denial. I’ve been submerged in Egypt’s River, like a crocodile, Never knowing I was swimming, deeply in de Nile . . . until I emerged . .


over 3 years ago, said...

I was wondering if it was normal for the dementia patients to seem to decline so fast. Sometimes I feel like it changes in my mom almost bi-weekly. I kinda thought it was just me.


almost 4 years ago, said...

Here's an example that came to mind when I read the article. My dad had Alzheimer's and my mom was caring for him, but he continued to drive the car and seemed to be doing OK. One day he and my mom picked up my daughter and a friend at the airport and drove her to her college. My daughter called me later and told me how frightened she and her friend were by her grandfather's driving. On the freeway he would change lanes without looking, and my mom would gently admonish him but it was obvious to my daughter that it was a dangerous situation. She said she never wanted to ride with him again. She also said, "Don't tell grandma!" because she was afraid of embarrassing her grandparents. But I told her that safety for everyone required that I speak out. I talked to my mom and told her that when it came time to pick up my daughter and go back to the airport, she must do the driving. Fortunately, mom agreed. I think she just needed an outside observer to tell her very directly that dad's driving was putting everyone in danger. From that day on, my dad did not drive. But it still gives me the shivers to think about what could have happened to my family on that busy freeway.


over 4 years ago, said...

Just called to mind that I must watch for my own form of "denial".


almost 5 years ago, said...

It is too general - it would be helpful to give actual examples - this would have made it a more thoughtful piece. It seems to me that this was dashed off to fill a deadline.


about 5 years ago, said...

Reminder to face the facts.....


about 5 years ago, said...

This article should be the FIRST thing sent to someone who has just signed up. It would have been easier to make the decision to take car keys if I understood that I was in dementia denial.


about 5 years ago, said...

I have seen most of this info before but it never hurts to see it again and have it re-jump start your thinking..so to speak. Good luck to all your angels out there.


about 5 years ago, said...

I like being reminded that these changes come almost monthly and I can't expect my sister to do or behave as well as she did a month ago.


over 5 years ago, said...

Thanks for this info very very helpful. God Bless You.