What percentage of Alzheimer's patients refuse to acknowledge they have Alzheimer's?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 23, 2016
Waynelake asked...

My wife has mild alzheimers, according to your formula. No Doctor has diagnosed it, except a Montral Comprehension test, on which she faile3d to answer 5 questions. She is in total denial. What percentage of Alzheimers patients refuse to acknowledge it and refuse to discuss it with her caregiver/husband? Wayne Allan

Expert Answers

Jytte Lokvig, PhD, coaches families and professional caregivers and designs life-enrichment programs and activities for patients with Alzheimer's disease and related dementia. Her workshops and seminars help caregivers and families create a healthy environment based on dignity and humor. She is the author of Alzheimer's A to Z: A Quick-Reference Guide.

Most people are terrified of Alzheimer's, so it's quite understandable why many don't want to face their diagnosis. There are hundreds of dementias, of which Alzheimer's is the most prevalent but since it's still not identified with absolute certainty until autopsy, the official diagnosis is "dementia, probably of the Alzheimer's type."

The word "probably" leads some people to think that the diagnosis is not absolute. Probably = possibly = possibly NOT. You can't really blame them.

Hearing that you've been struck by this, the most feared of diseases, is earth-shaking. It's going to take some time for your wife to adjust to the idea. She'll need your support more than ever. In the meantime, your wife may want to talk to you about her fears and anxieties. For the time being, avoid using the word "Alzheimer's" in these conversations. It has become a buzzword that often sends people into an instant state of unnecessary anxiety. Let her bring up the issues, otherwise continue your normal daily routines.

Your wife needs you to be her strongest ally in this foreign and scary territory. Please understand her anxiety and fear, be patient with her and let her know that you'll be there for her always. Without putting pressure on her, you'll want to prepare for the future by getting all legal paperwork in order, powers of attorney and healthcare proxies (for both of you, while you're at it.) Nothing is going to change drastically in the near future. Most importantly enjoy the time you have together.