Spotting Signs of Denial in Seniors with Dementia

By , 9:00 am on

Denial is a powerful tool that is sometimes used as a defense mechanism until a person can get used to a new health diagnosis. However, seniors who are in denial about their dementia place their safety and health at risk. If you provide elder care in Caledon for a senior loved one, it is important to understand that denial is often masked as other behaviors that may be used to hide a senior’s struggles or avoid a difficult conversation. Knowing how to spot these common signs of denial can enable you to get your loved one the right types of help.


Many at-home caregivers discover that a senior who is normally easygoing may suddenly get defensive when the topic turns to dementia. Older adults who lash out in anger may simply be trying to cover up their fear. Although it may be hard, stay calm during an angry outburst and make sure to revisit the conversation later.


Senior with dementia can often come up with many excuses for their behavior. Attempts to rationalize may be as simple as claiming that they were too tired to remember a missed doctor’s appointment, or they could create an entire explanation for why they got lost in a familiar neighborhood. Seniors in denial also frequently claim that their memory lapses were just the result of a normal senior moment.

Attempts to Cover Up Struggles

As dementia progresses, a senior in denial may try to hide problems caused by his or her declining mental abilities. For example, a senior may hide that he or she forgot to eat dinner or may claim an unpaid bill never arrived in the mail.

Refusal to Seek Treatment

Seniors who have yet to be diagnosed may refuse to talk to a doctor about their memory lapses out of the fear that they will be told that they have dementia. Those who remain in denial after a diagnosis may claim the doctor does not know what they are talking about and refuse to follow their treatment plan.

Continuing to Place Themselves at Risk

Seniors who are in full denial may continue to do activities that put their safety at risk. Traffic accidents, getting lost, and forgetting to turn off major appliances can all add up to serious problems if denial continues.


Social events can often cause anxiety for seniors who are in denial about their dementia. They may skip family dinners and holiday events where it may be obvious to others that they struggle with remembering names or following a normal routine. If a loved one suddenly begins to isolate him or herself from others, it may be time to address the topic head on.

The days and months following a dementia diagnosis can be difficult for everyone involved. However, you, your loved one, and your family don’t have to face the future alone. Reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of Caledon dementia care. Our compassionate and experienced caregivers can help with daily tasks, offer emotional support and companionship, and use our proprietary Cognitive Therapeutics Method to mentally engage and stimulate your loved one. Learn more by calling 905-951-8885 and speaking with a dedicated Care Manager.