What can I do about my family's Alzheimer's disease denial?

2 answers | Last updated: Nov 24, 2016
Ben v. asked...

My mom has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. She is in denial and I live in a different town, about 45 minutes away from her home. My bother and two aunts live near my mom but they are in denial. So the responsibility falls on my shoulders. My question is how to deal with Alzheimer's disease denial?

Expert Answers

Beth Spencer is a social worker in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with more than 25 years of experience with families who have a member with dementia. She is coauthor of Understanding Difficult Behaviors and Moving a Relative with Memory Loss: A Family Caregiver's Guide. Previously, she directed Silver Club, early-stage and adult day programs serving individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses.

What are they denying? That she has Alzheimer's disease? That there are any problems? A diagnosis is just a label.  Some people with early Alzheimer's are fine at home by themselves for a period of time.  There are also many strategies that can be adapted gradually to support people in the environment they are used to for a long while. 

Without more information, I can't tell if there is really a problem at this point.  My suggestion is that you focus on particular issues that are causing problems. The most likely might be driving, safety at home, finances. If none of these are currently problems, then you may need to just bide your time. Instead of trying to get your relatives to admit and talk about Alzheimer's, pick one concern you have and work on that with them. In general that's the best way to approach this issue with family members who may not be ready to face a diagnosis of Alzheimer's. If there are indeed safety issues, you may need to convince your mom to move near you or you may want to hire a care manager in the area where she lives. Private care managers often are a good solution for long-distance caregivers. To find a private geriatric care manager, go to their website at http://www.caremanager.org.

Community Answers

Ema answered...

my children are unable to accept that their father has dementia. It is bad and he is driving me crazy. How do I get them to realize this and help me.?