How Dementia Locks People Inside Their Pain

February 12, 2021

(The Atlantic) – When a patient’s cognitive condition prevents reliable self-assessment, as is the case for my grandmother, our ability to see a person’s pain and treat what we see is even further limited. For caretakers of people with dementia, the riddle of their suffering becomes nearly unsolvable. Alzheimer’s disease, the most frequent cause of dementia, can undermine the entire process of conveying pain, from perception to communication. A person with Alzheimer’s might express discomfort by wandering, moaning, or refusing to eat or sleep, but the same behaviors might express loneliness, or hunger, or sadness—or they might be symptoms of the disease itself.