Denial can be a dangerous reaction or response, especially as it relates to dementia care. In my care management practice I see it most frequently in the form of not admitting your loved one has any form of dementia whatsoever. Other times, it’s a lack of awareness of the level of care your loved one needs.
While denial can initially be a coping mechanism, it can ultimately create major health and welfare problems.
It’s important to realize that, while there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s and many other dementia’s there are actions that can be taken to improve a family and a love one’s situation.
Probably the most difficult situation created by denial is when the view of reality is split within a family. Denial, in this case, causes many other problems, one of which is usually regret, the other is animosity.
It ‘s easy to get stuck in a circle of anger. Denial masks many emotions, including grief and fear. Illogical and counter-productive behavior often is a direct result of getting “stuck”.
Everything gets compounded when there are out of town family members that do not see the day-to-day symptoms that are more easily hidden during short visits or telephone conversations.
There are a few things that I have seen in my experience that sometimes help:
- Try to listen with an open mind to others who may be more objective in what they see.
- Take deep breaths, and pause, before responding to anyone that seems to be in denial regarding a loved one’s care needs or living situation.
- At some point, the choice is either to try to engage in rational discussion in hope of “shaking some sense into them” or work around them and do whatever you have to do in order to satisfy your own need to do the right thing.
- Attend a support group, especially if ideas have been raised about the issues of dementia or care needs you question. The objective feedback might be enlightening.
- Read! There is so much information out there relative to these topics that it is likely you will connect with something that will enlighten you.
Unfortunately, there are times when nothing you do will break through the denial, and consequences will be suffered. But we’re human. Most of us are doing the best we can at any given moment. We feel emotions and have coping mechanisms, and denial is one of them.