What To Do When a Family Member Is In Denial of an Alzheimer’s or Dementia Diagnosis

Learning your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia is a hard pill to swallow. It can be devastating, scary, and overwhelming. In some cases we see certain people go into complete denial of the prognosis of their loved one. This could be a spouse, son or daughter, a sister or brother, or even a close friend. Either way, they let their fear of the disease turn into denial, and are afraid to confront the situation at hand.

Denial of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be detrimental to your loved one, family members, and caregivers. Here are some of the risks or challenges that can occur due to denial:

  • Injuries/Accidents: If someone is in denial of your loved one’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and does not think they need around the clock care or needs to take certain precautions, your loved one could be at a higher risk for accidents, or worse, injuries. If they are left unsupervised, it could lead to an accident in the kitchen or bath, a fall, cutting or burning themselves, leaving the stove on, even starting a fire.
  • Financial Exploitation: If someone is not monitoring your loved one’s financials, it could leave them open to financial exploitation (link), either by the person themselves, their caretaker, or another family member. If someone has Alzheimer’s, it’s important to check their financials regularly and if someone is in denial of the disease, they won’t be keeping an eye on these aspects.
  • Papers and Documents: It’s important to get all legal paperwork in place before the disease progresses. These include financial power of attorney, medical power of attorney, permissions to release medical information. Once your loved one is deemed incompetent, they cannot complete these documents. Denial of the disease could prevent this paperwork from getting done, and once the person is deemed incompetent, it makes dealing with finances, medical procedures, and getting the proper care difficult.

Most importantly, denial can lead to putting off care for your loved one. The person in denial might not think your loved one needs the necessary care. In order to try and prevent denial from occurring, it is best to have a “family meeting” soon after the initial diagnosis, to make sure everyone is on the same page, and what the plan is moving forward. Loved ones should be involved as much as possible in helping the plan stay on track. Putting off the necessary plans and delaying proper care can be detrimental to your loved one and can add stress to everyone involved.