Anosognosia versus Alzheimer’s Disease

We often come across people forgetting name of a person, a book, or a word and trying to remember the same. Sometimes they also forget where they left their glasses or keys. Many people get worried that these are early signs of Alzheimer’s, but it’s not correct.

It often happens in people of 60 and above and they start thinking and complaining that they lack memory. But if anyone is aware of his own memory problems, he doesn’t have Alzheimer’s.

According to French Professor, Bruno Dubois, French Professor at the Institute for Memory and Alzheimer’s Disease (IMMA) of La Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, this is nothing but temporary forgetfulness and he calls it “Anosognosia”, that in Greek means “to not know a disease.”

Half of senior citizens have one or other symptoms that are due to age, with passage of years. It’s not a disease. After 60 years most people have such a difficulty and experience lack of insight or awareness. It’s common, nothing to worry.

“The information is always in the brain, it’s the “processor” lacks at times.”

Those who are conscious of being forgetful have no serious problem of memory, while the patients of Alzheimer’s are not at all aware of what is happening.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other mental functions, while anosognosia is a condition when brain fails to recognise health conditions that one has.

Professor Bruno Dubois, Director of IMMA, reassures the majority of people concerned about their oversights and confirms that the more one complains about memory loss, the less likely he or she is to suffer from memory sickness.

But there is a word of caution. As it impairs a person’s ability to understand and perceive his or her illness, it shouldn’t be taken too lightly. Apart from dementia, anosognosia is also caused due to stroke or traumatic head injury.

Besides some common method to explore explicit anosognosia, there is a 15-minute simple pen and paper SAGE (Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam) test to identify mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The questions in the test include finding an odd letter or number in the table of many similar looking letters or numbers, or drawing a picture by adding given numbers etc.

If a person passes these tests without any difficulty, his or her brain is in perfect shape irrespective of age, and need not bother about Alzheimer’s.

But those who fail, need our care, empathy, sympathy and above all, a listening ear.


–Kaushal Kishore

31 Comments

  1. I’ve always been forgetful. I have to keep a list (I have a clipboard) so I know what needs to be done on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. As for names, I have learned that when I am introduced to a person, it is imperative to repeat the person’s name after the introduction, as to codify the name into my brain. I no longer forget names like I once did.

    The other thing about elderly dementia is the role of medications. People don’t think about what they are putting into their bodies or the side effects of these medications. Many of them effect cognitive abilities. I stopped taking most medications years ago, except for the few I absolutely have to take. Statin drugs especially affect memory & can mimic the symptoms of dementia. I utterly refuse to take these drugs.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. First of all, thank you for this enlightening reflection! Writing things on a clipboard is the best way to organise ourselves. I also loved your idea of codifying names that has proved effective in your case. Almost all allopathic medicines have side effects. It’s wiser to minimise their intake. Thanks once again!

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    1. Thank you, Grace. It reminds me of a senior, who once talked to a person in the office for ten minutes and when the fellow left, he asked me who was that fellow. So it happens so often, and we shouldn’t be hypochondriac unnecessarily.💖💖

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  2. Very informative and interesting … and somewhat of a relief to read. I know I’m becoming more forgetful; this is something I’m fully aware of and eventually remember whatever it is I momentarily forgot. The same is true for my husband and I was beginning to get concerned about him. He has assured me countless times that he’s aware of his memory lapses, that the misplaced thoughts always work their way back into his brain and I shouldn’t worry so much. I guess I won’t worry so much … for the time being! 🤔

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree with you and your husband. At times we forget a name or person, but after sometime, we recollect the same. This is a momentary thing, and nothing to worry about. Hypochondria never helps. I appreciate your positive outlook. Stay blessed, always 😊💐

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  3. I’m not sure about the conclusion that anyone who is aware of memory problems doesn’t have Alzheimer’s, KK. A dear friend several years younger than I am has been diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which two neurologists have told her may in time progress to Alzheimer’s. She had been aware of the problem since before diagnosis and finds it frustrating and frightening. She and her husband play challenging mental games, and she’s on a medical regimen—all designed to keep stimulating her neurons—but the road ahead is unfortunately uncertain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, Annie and I absolutely agree with you. That’s why I have added a word of caution. The tests are to be conducted periodically. Nobody knows when our body develops some complications. As you said, I have a friend, who was fully cured of prostate cancer, but after three years, it has resurfaced, and presently he is in hospital. So nothing is certain. I pray for your friend.🙏

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