Accepting My Condition - DementiaHub.SG

Accepting My Condition

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It can be difficult to accept a dementia diagnosis, and understanding the reason behind your struggle to accept it is important to coming up with strategies to help yourself.

Receiving a dementia diagnosis can be harrowing—it’s normal for a person who has been diagnosed to feel a range of negative emotions, from sadness to frustration, or even outright denial.

A continued inability to accept a dementia diagnosis can pose problems if persons living with dementia refuse to accept help in the future, or continue activities like driving even when it has become unsafe to do so. The difficulty in acknowledging the experience of memory or cognitive difficulties could sometimes be due to fear, or a genuine inability to understand that there is a problem. If you find it difficult to accept a dementia diagnosis, it is important to identify the reason for this so that you know how to tackle the problem.

Anosognosia

In some cases, a struggle to acknowledge dementia does not stem from an active effort to deny the signs, but rather is due to an inability to understand that there is an impairment. Known as anosognosia, changes in the brain mean that individuals with dementia truly believe that there is nothing wrong with them. If others tell you that you have been showing signs of dementia, but what they say confuses you, this confusion may be due to brain changes. You may also feel frustrated or worried thinking about how you may experience anosognosia in the future. It is important that you acknowledge that this frustration is not your fault, or anyone’s fault, and accept it for what it is.

With anosognosia, no amount of evidence can convince a person with dementia to accept their diagnosis. Your caregiver(s) and care professionals will need to come up with caregiving strategies to work around this. As long as it does not pose a safety issue, it is okay to for them to allow you to keep helping out around the house.

If you or your loved ones suspect that you experience periods of anosognosia, it is important to consult a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist to get a proper diagnosis. A medical professional will also be able to better advise you on how to proceed in such situations. Caregivers and care professionals may consult psychologists or care professionals in the future too should they believe that you have anosognosia.

Fear

Denial of a dementia diagnosis often stems from fear—there’s just something about accepting the condition that makes it seem more real.

Right after you receive your diagnosis, give yourself some time and space to think about it, and how you want to approach the situation or proceed. If you continue to find it difficult to accept your diagnosis, you can ask for support from caregivers, loved ones, and care professionals.

One of the things you can do is to find out more about the dementia support groups or therapies run by Dementia Singapore or other organisations. Attending these with other people with dementia and seeing how they are still capable of living meaningful lives and having fun can be helpful in assuaging fears you have and allow you to come to terms with their diagnosis.

It is also important to stay calm and supportive of yourself. Persons with dementia can live full and fulfilling lives, especially at the early stages. Check out the stories of dementia advocates from Dementia Singapore’s Voices For Hope programme, and other inspiring persons with dementia like Kate Swaffer and George Chong, who are embodiments of the fact that life does not come to an end because of a dementia diagnosis; rather, it is a new adventure.

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