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Saturday, Mar 28, 2015

LeBlanc: The denial of dementia

Common Sense Caregiving


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In my experience I have come across only one symptom of dementia that appears to be contagious, and that is mindset of “denial.”

It is quite common to find denial running rampant among the family members of people diagnosed with dementia, but even more often it is discovered coming right from the psychologically imbalanced themselves! “We all get a little forgetful once in a while,“ can often be heard coming from both groups. Beliefs like this can be dangerous. Allowing those with dementia behind the wheel or sanctioning their refusal to see a doctor can lead to disaster. It’s vital that we find a way to make reality sink in before it’s too late.

Understandably, most folks are afraid to go to their doctor and discuss what symptoms they’re experiencing. They’re terrified they might hear the word “Alzheimer’s.” If this sounds like someone you know, you must make it clear to them that something else could be going on. There could be a vitamin B deficiency or a thyroid problem. It may not necessarily be the “Big A.”

Family members and friends of those diagnosed need to provide as much support as possible. Educating the general public is crucial. Dementia is not necessarily a natural part of aging. Something in the human body — or a lack of something — is causing it. Yes we do get a little more forgetful when we get older; but that is not dementia.

Robert Stern, director of the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center, states: “Dementia is a symptom, and Alzheimer’s is the cause of the symptom. A good analogy to the term dementia is ‘fever.’ Fever refers to an elevated temperature, indicating that the person is sick, but it does not touch on any information on what is causing the sickness.” So basically what he’s saying is that dementia is not the disease; it is one of the symptoms of the disease.

Dementia is an umbrella term for multiple symptoms such as cognitive impairment, faltering language skills, short attention span, poor decision-making and the deterioration of motor skills.

As human beings, we tend to use “denial” as a safety mechanism. It reminds me of the English metaphor of the elephant being in the room; if we don’t acknowledge it, it’s simply not there. Well it is there and we need to start talking about it openly! The more we discuss it, the more others will learn. Hopefully, when people are better educated, the denial will naturally start slipping away.

Fighting for the cause against dementia-related diseases includes educating the public to be aware of all the disabilities involved with the disease. This also means educating physicians and medical professionals.

With an early and proper diagnosis patients immediately can be prescribed the correct treatment or therapy, and they and their families can plan ahead, starting off on the right foot.

For a decade Gary Joseph LeBlanc was the primary caregiver of his father, after his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He can be reached at His newly released book “Managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Behaviors,” and his other books “While I Still Can” and an expanded edition of “Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfullness,” can be found at

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