Dementia, in any form, is a heartbreaking disease that can take away one’s thinking and judgement abilities before they pass. 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 fears and frustrations of 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), and a research group from Kumamoto University in Japan has performed the first statistical analysis of SARs in patients with various forms of dementia. Their findings revealed that those face-saving responses are particularly common in people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), leading the researchers to recommend that doctors and caregivers should develop a more respectful attitude toward dementia patients who exhibit SARs because SARs imply conflicted feelings about questions that patients cannot answer correctly.
“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 Kumamoto University’s Dr. Masateru Matsushita of the Center for Medical Education and Research, leader of the study. “The reason more SARs are seen in AD 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 AD, will lead to earlier detection and better medical care for people suffering from dementia.”