Anosognosia is a symptom of severe mental illness that impairs a person’s ability to understand and perceive his or her illness. And it impacts our society in many ways.
Anosognosia impacts approximately 50 percent of all individuals with schizophrenia and 40 percent of people with bipolar disease. It also is recognized in people that have strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurological conditions. There is growing evidence that shows whenever a person suffers from one or more of these diseases, a part of the brain that is involved with self-reflection is impacted in the process. Without the awareness that something is happening to them, they refuse treatment, no matter how clear the need for treatment may be to others around them.
It can be a scary thought. Could we really be living with a disease that impacts our mental facilities and not know it? How would the people around us, the ones we love the most, cope with the issues?
As a caregiver, it can be one of the most stressful situations you’ll face. Studies show it can impact as many as 77 percent of all stroke victims after the incident. Some researchers have estimated that as many as 60 percent of people with mild cognitive impairment and 81 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease have some form of anosognosia.
Not only are they completely unaware that they are suffering from the impairment, but they will argue and fight you about it when confronted as well. That can make it difficult to diagnose, and even more difficult to live with.
The most effective course of action as a caregiver is to seek relief from the impact rather than trying to make the person understand.
Use positive approaches to daily communication and avoid things that you know cause agitation.
Stay calm and focused when voicing concerns. Stick with subtle messages and test reactions before moving forward.
Work together with the person on necessary tasks to keep them focused and on track.
Have you cared for someone with anosognosia before?