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Tips for Overcoming Dementia Denial in Parents

Written by OurParents Staff
 about the author
4 minute readLast updated February 11, 2024

Millions of people around the world are living with dementia. It is the leading cause of loss of independence in seniors and one of the hardest diseases to accept. What do you do when your aging parent refuses to admit there is a problem?

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Why dementia denial is common for older adults

Research from the Alzheimer’s Society has found that women have a much higher likelihood of developing dementia during their lifetime.[01] As a caregiver for your aging parents, one of the worst things to realize is, “My mother is in denial about dementia.”
However, dementia can affect anyone at any time. Mom or Dad may start having more difficulty remembering appointments or names. They may get lost on the way home from the grocery store. You may notice it becoming more difficult to have a conversation as your parent becomes confused and experiences changes in speech or other sudden barriers to communication.
These common signs of dementia are obvious to you, but when you mention the possibility to your parent, they deny there’s anything wrong and refuse to get proper medical care. What can you do?
First, you must understand the two main reasons behind why a parent would deny dementia symptoms:


Anosognosia is a lack of awareness that one has an impairment. This can be caused by damage to the brain that occurs with dementia. If your parent has anosognosia, they’re incapable of recognizing or understanding their cognitive decline. It’s more than just denial; you will not be able to convince them of the dementia symptoms that you see, as their brain cannot physically acknowledge the diagnosis.[02]


Many people have an extreme fear of being diagnosed with dementia. Can you imagine anything scarier than being told that your mind will progressively decline and you’ll lose your ability to remember those around you? A parent with dementia in denial will likely not admit to symptoms because that makes it real and terrifying.
In many of these cases, fear is a psychological coping mechanism. If your loved one does not acknowledge that there is a problem, they may feel that the problem is minor or fleeting and does not have to be dealt with, leading to further denial of dementia symptoms.

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How to handle dementia denial

You can provide help for your parent, regardless of whether they accept their dementia symptoms. The sooner you can get an official diagnosis, the sooner you can start providing proper and individualized care.
Alzheimer’s Disease International states that early diagnosis of dementia will:
  • Allow you to have the time to take advantage of therapies that may enhance your loved one’s quality of life and slow the progression of dementia
  • Give both you and your parent time to make decisions about financial and legal issues
  • Prepare you and your loved one for the changes that will come as the disease progresses[03]
Once you have received the official diagnosis, you can use the following three steps to help guide your parent (and yourself) through a diagnosis of dementia:
  1. Collect detailed information. Educate yourself on what the symptoms of dementia are, then make a list of the signs that you have noticed. Note any changes you have seen over the last year or two. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends listing when the symptoms began and how frequently they occur.[04] Ask your parent if you can accompany them to their next doctor’s appointment, and let them know you want to talk to the doctor about your observations.
  2. Track daily interactions. Encourage your parent to keep track of changes in their communication, daily functions, and memories. Let your parent know that there are often other causes for changes in memory and that seeing the doctor can allow you to rule out treatable conditions.
  3. Provide consistent support. Many people in the early stages of dementia continue to live a happy and fulfilling life for years with proper support. If your parent can accept the diagnosis or is aware of the dementia symptoms, be honest and supportive. Tell your parent you are on their team and want what is best for them.

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Additional ways to offer support

Even after seeing a doctor and receiving a diagnosis of dementia, your parent may still refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem. Your job is not to prove them wrong, but to focus on what is necessary to keep your loved one healthy and safe.
The Alzheimer’s Association offers a tool called ALZNavigator that helps families of a parent with dementia in denial devise a personalized action plan and connect with local resources. You can also call the 24-hour Alzheimer’s helpline at 800-272-3900 to speak with a Care Consultant. A trained counselor or geriatric care manager can help you address safety concerns like driving.
Remember, you can’t force your parent to accept the symptoms of dementia that you see. Part of dementia is often an inability to remember or recognize the problem. Realizing this can help you feel more compassion and less frustration with your parent, empowering you to get them the care they need. Start by educating yourself on dementia symptoms, taking your parent to see the doctor, and planning for what you will do to help keep your loved one safe.


  1. Alzheimer’s Society. (2023, March 8). Why is dementia different for women?

  2. Acharya AB, Sánchez-Manso JC. Anosognosia. (2023, Apr 24). StatPearls [Internet].

  3. Alzheimer’s Disease International. (2023). Importance of a timely diagnosis.

  4. Alzheimer’s Association. (2023). Visiting your doctor.

Meet the Author
OurParents Staff

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