How Patients With Alzheimer’s Disease Hide Their Forgetfulness

A research group at Kumamoto University, Japan, has found that patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease often engage in face-saving behaviour to hide their loss of memory.

AsianScientist (Jun. 21, 2018) – Scientists in Japan have found that people with dementia tend to engage in face-saving responses to compensate for their failing memories. They published their findings in PLOS One.

Dementia, in any form, can take away one’s thinking and judgement abilities. To save face, people with dementia often pretend to know answers to questions, even if they really don’t. This often hides the severity of the disease and exasperates the people who care for them.

The act of pretending to know answers to keep up appearances is referred to as ‘saving appearance responses’ (SARs). In the present study, a research group from Kumamoto University in Japan has performed the first statistical analysis of SARs in patients with various forms of dementia. They revealed that face-saving responses are particularly common in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers compared the frequency of SARs observed during cognitive function examinations in 107 patients with Alzheimer’s disease, 16 patients with cerebrovascular disease, 30 patients with Lewy body dementia and 55 patients with mild cognitive impairment. The examination was statistically adjusted for sex, estimated duration of disease, cognitive function and frontal lobe function.

The scientists found that patients with Alzheimer’s disease were 4.24 times more likely to engage in SARs than patients with Lewy body dementia. In addition, they observed that patients with Alzheimer’s disease were 3.48 times more likely to produce SARs than patients with mild cognitive impairment.

“SARs are a patient’s effort to show that they have no cognitive problems, but it seems that there are various psychological conflicts involved,” said Dr. Masateru Matsushita of the Center for Medical Education and Research at Kumamoto University who led the study.

“The reason more SARs are seen in Alzheimer’s disease may be because even though the memory function of the brain is in decline, thinking and judgment abilities are barely compromised. Attention to SARs might be helpful for more accurate dementia diagnosis. We expect that a better understanding of the characteristics of SARs, particularly in Alzheimer’s disease, will lead to earlier detection and better medical care for people suffering from dementia,” he added.

The article can be found at: Matsushita et al. (2018) Are Saving Appearance Responses Typical Communication Patterns in Alzheimer’s Disease?


Source: Kumamoto University; Photo: Shutterstock.
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