Dealing with Loss: The Denial of a Dementia Diagnosis

Last updated: January 2023

I don't usually tell people this, but you won't spill it, right? Ok, so here goes... I refused to accept my mom's diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's. I know, crazy, right?

Since my mom was only 58 when she was diagnosed, I thought denial wasn't that farfetched. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, and early-onset is becoming even more so.

Not knowing this at the time, my denial of the diagnosis was very real to me. I soon realized that denial could happen to anyone. My denial of my mom's Alzheimer's diagnosis was difficult to recognize, and it affected my family members and me.

Denial of an Alzheimer's diagnosis

I admit denying that my 58-year-old mom had Alzheimer's wasn't my proudest moment. Denial of the disease seemed to be the only way I could cope.

For me, the denial came in stages, from self-convincing to disbelief to finally finding acceptance.

Stage 1: Denial of an Alzheimer's diagnosis

The first denial stage came in the form of self-convincing.

In my head, I tried to convince myself that what was happening wasn't true. This denial phase only lasted a few months before I finally realized it was time for me to face reality and accept what had been happening for over a year.

Stage 2: Denial of an Alzheimer's diagnosis

Disbelief and self-convincing all played a role in the second stage of my denial. I was still attempting to convince myself that what my mom had been going through wasn't true.

During this phase, it got to the point where I didn't want anyone around me who knew about her condition. The more people asked about mom, the more it reminded me that she was sick.

All I wanted was for things to go back to "normal." This denial phase lasted close to 3 years before finally denying I was even in denial!

Denial of denial: The third stage of dealing with loss

Between you and me, this denial phase lasted a long time. After three years into my mom's fight with early-onset Alzheimer's disease, I realized she no longer had control over her life, and neither did we as family members.

It became clear to me that if we wanted quality care for our loved one diagnosed with dementia, we would have to make some decisions because they simply couldn't do it themselves at this point in the illness.

We made these difficult choices involving everyday routines, daycare facility visits, and medical treatment options based on what would be best for her.

We all have different ways of dealing

I hope that sharing my denial of an Alzheimer's diagnosis will help you deal with loss. We all have different ways of dealing with grief, so don't be hard on yourself.

Give yourself grace as you learn to accept the reality of a loved one's early-onset Alzheimer's disease diagnosis or another form of dementia. The bottom line - do whatever works best for you!

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