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Dangers of Caregiver Denial

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Dangers of Caregiver Denial

Denial is a normal human emotion, especially with symptoms as heartbreaking as dementia or Alzheimer’s, as no one wants to confront the disease for which there is currently no cure. But there are risks to caregiver denial.

Dangers that go along with caregiver denial are two-fold. Not only is your loved one at risk; but also you, the caregiver, is at risk.

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been through the caregiving experience. It never gets easy. But a little education helps, and there are definitely some good pointers to keep in mind.

Denial is a tool. It protects us. But if we stay in denial, it becomes a problem. People try to hide their problems. But if both the patient and their loved ones ignore changes in behavior, even if they are subtle, this can lead to problems. An Alzheimer’s or dementia patient only has a small window of being objective. If they can confront the problems they’re experiencing in a timely manner, they can participate in decisions that involve their care and finances.

7 Dangers of Denial for the Patient

Here are seven dangers that can occur that Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers need to be cognizant of when caring for their aging loved one:

1. They can get lost.

The brain doesn’t remember directions or locations as it did before memory impairment; even if the person has been to a destination a thousand times before. If your loved one gets lost they can get hurt or panic, which only leads to more problems.

2. They can hurt themselves or others.

If your loved one tries to do everything as they’ve always done, but in reality they require supervision, they are bound to hurt themselves or others. For example, ignoring the fact that they need a walker can lead to a fall, resulting in broken bones, displaced joints, hospitalizations and the use of pain medication.

3. They can have a home accident.

Leaving your loved one unsupervised could lead to accidents in the kitchen, bath, stairs or around the house. Fires could even occur.

4. They can suffer from poor nourishment.

Shopping and eating healthy requires proper planning and cooking techniques. If a loved one has memory impairment, he or she will more than likely not be eating healthy. This is why it is so crucial to regularly check cabinets to survey whether healthy foods have been purchased and to make sure your loved one doesn’t look sick or too thin.

5. They can cause an accident from driving.

Surprisingly accidents from senior driving don’t happen very often, but when they do, they’re catastrophic. Your loved one, pedestrians and other innocent bystanders could be hurt or even killed in the event of an accident.

6. They can overdose on medications.

Overdosing on medications is quite common for seniors who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia. Organizing medications for your loved one to take on their own can even create problems as they may not understand the days of the week or whatever dispensing system you may have in place.

7. They can become a victim of elder abuse.

Elder abuse can be subtle. Husband or wife caregivers can have good intentions, but not understand they are being abusive.

6 Dangers of Denial for Family Members

Family members also suffer from denial that their loved ones have dementia and Alzheimer’s. Having a realistic perspective about your loved one’s illness and his or her needs is crucial if you’re thinking about their wellbeing. But it can be hard for family members to accept that their parent, spouse or family member has changed. It’s even worse when both the elderly loved one with the problem and the family member is in denial.

Six Dangers of Denial for Family Members

1. Losing the chance to make special memories

If you’re in denial and walking on eggshells trying to avoid signs of the disease, you’re probably not going to enjoy the time you have left with your loved one.

2. Forfeiting being the best advocate for your loved one

If you’re in denial, you can’t be your loved one’s advocate. Someone who doesn’t love them may have to take over, which can create even more problems, both emotionally and financially.

3. Not getting legal papers in order.

Without Power of Attorney (POA), you’re not going to get anywhere with anything. Whether it’s social security, IRS, or even utility companies or banks. People need to know you’re the one in charge.

4. Family conflict

Family conflict can create all kinds of frustrations for everyone. If some of the members are in denial, it adds to the conflict; and maybe even an old conflict can resurface. The family members in denial don’t help out and the aware ones take on multiple burdens; sometimes on their own. Often the ones in denial accuse their siblings of ‘over reacting.’

5. Loss of financial resources.

If someone is suffering from memory impairment, they are no longer fit to handle their finances. If the family member or caregiver ignores what’s was going on with mom and dad, stocks will get sold at the wrong time and sometimes bank accounts can be completely wiped out.

6. Stress involving illnesses and even the death of the caregiver before the patient passes away.

It’s not uncommon for family caregivers to put their own health at risk when they are in denial about the help they need caring for a loved one. Family caregivers over age 66 have a 63% higher mortality rate than non-caregivers, and that often the caregiver dies before the loved one they are taking care of does.

Survival Tips and Tips for Facing Denial for Dementia Caregivers

It’s no secret that Alzheimer’s and dementia can take a toll on caregivers.

-              ​Start writing in a journal to get your thoughts on paper and identify fears or anger you may be experiencing (these are key emotions in denial)

-              Seek out a friend or loved one to talk to about your denial

-              Recognize that anger is a sign

-              Make it a team effort comprised of friends and family members as the support will help everyone involved

-              Get educated: The sooner, the better,  ALZ.org,  the MayoClinic , and The Alzheimer’s Aid Society of Northern California.

Basic Survival Tips

-              Take a break

-              Use humor to help you through

-              Get a support group

-              Seek professional help

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