Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning, including thinking, remembering, and reasoning.
For many old people and their families, dementia is a heartbreaking disease.
People with dementia often pretend to know answers to questions, even if they really don’t. In this way, they can protect their self-esteem and confidence.
But this pretention often hides the severity of the disease and makes people who care for the patient feel frustrated.
The act of pretending to know answers to keep up appearances is referred to as “saving appearance responses” (SARs).
In a recent study, researchers from Kumamoto University in Japan has performed the first statistical analysis of SARs in patients with various forms of dementia.
They find that the pretentions are very common in people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
The researchers recommend that doctors and caregivers should develop a more respectful attitude toward dementia patients, because the SARs imply conflicted feelings about questions that patients cannot answer correctly.
In daily communications, people with dementia often make conversation as if they remember what they forgot, even though they have various problems caused by memory impairment.
This communication style (using SARs) is well-known among those who treat and care for people with dementia.
For example, in Japan many reports on SARs, but most are based on the experiences and impressions of doctors, nurses, and clinical psychologists, and do not include enough numerical data.
In the study, the researchers compared the appearance frequency of SARs observed during cognitive function examinations in people with AD (107 patients), AD with cerebrovascular disease (16), Lewy body dementia (30), and mild cognitive impairment (55).
The results show that more than half of the AD patients use SARs.
It quickly became clear that face-saving reactions and attitudes in these patients occurred much more frequently compared to other dementia patients.
AD patients were 4.24 times more likely than Lewy body dementia to produce SARs, and 3.48 times more likely than mild cognitive impairment.
The researchers said that SARs are a patient’s effort to show that they have no cognitive problems, but it seems that there are various psychological conflicts involved.
AD patients show more SARs is because even though their memory function of the brain is in decline, their thinking and judgment abilities are still good.
Healthcare workers should pay more attention to SARs and this might be helpful for more accurate dementia diagnosis.
A better understanding of SARs, particularly in AD patients, will lead to earlier detection and better medical care for people suffering from dementia.
This study is published in PLOS ONE.
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