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Do Alzheimer's patients know what's going on?

Short answer: Yes. But, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. Meaning more and more brain cells are destroyed over time. During the early stages, someone with Alzheimer’s may recognize something is wrong. However, not everybody is aware. Long answer: Yes and no.

Let’s start with a story about someone with Alzheimer’s, who suspects something is wrong.

Mrs. Blue has to take the Mini-Mental-Status-Test because her husband Mr. Blue suspects that something is not normal. She always misplaces their blue home key.

When she had been asked to recall three words - apple, key, bench - she named three different words: “house, boat, green”.

The doctor told her the diagnosis and that the three recalled words were completely wrong.

So she turned around to her husband and told him:

“Well, Mr. Blue I feel particularly blue right now. Could this be the beginning of the end?”

Table of Content
What to do if someone forgets to have Alzheimer’s?
How does someone with Alzheimer’s feel?
List of Resources
About the Author

What to do if someone forgets to have Alzheimer’s?

In case someone was already diagnosed and forgot, you can choose not to remind. Otherwise, hopelessness can arise. This feeling could result in depression. There are three things you can do instead: (1) create an atmosphere of safety and comfort, (2) make your beloved person feel valued, (3) try grabbing their attention with another topic.

However, one can always argue that they have the right to know.

My standpoint is the opposite. Nothing is gained from knowing to suffer a fatal disease.

The aim of taking care should be that the beloved person should feel safe.

Depending on the stage there is nothing more important than the feeling of safety. If someone with Alzheimer’s uses the phrase “I want to go home” then this can be an indicator of not feeling safe.

You can learn how to react in such a situation in my article “Why do Alzheimer's patients want to go home?”.

How does someone with Alzheimer’s feel?

Many emotions can be experienced when remembering that you have Alzheimer’s. Feeling hopeless, like a burden, confused, or depressed can be on the one side of the spectrum. Other individuals might feel grateful for still being alive. Even though a majority of Alzheimer’s patients have comorbid depression they rarely feel guilty.

However, there are more emotions that can be felt.

Let me tell you the story of a 78 year’s old woman, who is diagnosed with moderate Alzheimer’s.

On Saturday she had been visited in the nursing home by her daughter and two sons.

All three of them happily greeted her.

She stared at all their faces remembering the names of her daughter Julia, her son Alex, but not of the other one.

There she sat in her chair. Realizing it’s her own son whose name she forgot.

She started speaking:

“My dear Julia, and my beloved two sons. I am happy that you all visit me here.”

Both her sons looked at each other and started saying their names.

As if it is some sort of protocol to them.

The mother would reply:

“My beloved sons, do you know how dumb I feel right now? Knowing that both of you are my sons, but not remembering your names?”

So there you have it. Living with the disease can cause an emotional rollercoaster occasionally.

Not because of forgetting, but because of the social stigma that is placed upon one.

We can all work on that. If you feel like it, read more about symptoms, day-to-day life with an Alzheimer’s patient in my “All you need to know about Alzheimer’s” guide.

List of Resources

Patric Pförtner

B. Sc. Psychology

Hi, my name is Patric Pfoertner and I graduated 2020 from the NBU. Currently, I work and study in Germany. My specialisations are Cognitive Psychology paired with a good slack of Clinical Psychology. Just this year I started publishing my research in the CBB Journal. Feel free to read about it at ResearchGate. Otherwise, click the other button to read my full CV.

About Author ResearchGate

P.S.: I am available for psychological consultation, too.