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How to offer help to someone with dementia who doesn’t want it

Do you know a person with dementia or memory problems who is refusing offers of help? Here are a few ways to support someone who may be in denial or lack insight about their situation.

It is common for someone living with dementia to deny that they are experiencing issues with their memory or other aspects of cognition, such as having difficulty holding conversations or carrying out daily living tasks.

This could be due to denial or lack of insight. Similar to denial, lack of insight means that a person with dementia is unable to recognise changes in their behaviour and personality.

Continued denial can cause problems in the person's future. For example:

  • they may refuse to accept help 
  • there could be delays in starting or stopping medication
  • they may continue to drive despite it not being safe for them to do so.

Offering help to someone with memory problems who may be in denial

Someone living with memory issues may deny that they’re experiencing problems. This can be frustrating, especially if you’ve been encouraging them to visit their GP for a memory test.

Denial may reflect that the person is feeling fearful and needs time to accept what is happening.

It is possible that they have some awareness of their cognitive issues and may be feeling uneasy or anxious about this. They may also be fearful about the future.

They may feel – or think that other people may feel – a stigma about having a diagnosis of dementia.

Here are some ideas to consider when talking to someone about your worries. 

  • Broach the topic gently. It may help to remind them that memory issues don’t always point towards dementia.
  • Be kind and supportive during the conversation. Listen to their reasons and any fears they raise.
  • Let them know that you’re worried about them. Give examples of issues like missing appointments, misplacing items, forgetting names.
  • Break down the larger issue into smaller ones. Pick one to focus on, such as, ‘I’ve noticed you’ve been forgetting names of friends. Maybe the GP will be able to help.’
  • Keep a diary of events. This will help you show someone you’re worried about that you have ‘evidence’ for your worries. The diary will also support you both if you see a doctor as they may want to see a record of issues.
  • Turn the focus towards getting support for their friends and family. For example, ‘If you visit the GP, we might be able to get extra help that would give me a break...’

If their denial of the issue(s) continues, this may further delay receiving an official diagnosis. 

Offering help to someone with dementia who denies their diagnosis

Receiving a dementia diagnosis can be a daunting experience.

The person who has been diagnosed may feel a range of emotions, from sadness to disbelief to denial.

When you talk to someone about their diagnosis and how they’re feeling, try to stay calm. This may help calm them down, too.

Denial can be beneficial, as it can give someone time to process news and how they feel about it.

Giving the person time and space to think about their diagnosis and how they feel about it is a good way of approaching the situation.

If they continue to deny their diagnosis, you might start to feel frustrated or unable to help.

There are a few things you can do to support someone who is in denial about their dementia diagnosis or refusing to accept help.

  • Keep a diary of events – examples of issues, dates, times, locations – and what happened. This record can support you in approaching the person diagnosed with dementia, if it feels appropriate. You can use it to show them you care and are concerned for them.
  • Find out more about local support groups and therapies. Attending these may help the person come to terms with their diagnosis. Talking and art therapies are popular choices.
  • Try to stay calm when talking about your concerns. Getting angry or upset can make conversations uncomfortable for everyone involved. The person you’re worried about may be more hesitant to talk to you in the future.

It's important to try talking to the person you're worried about and to encourage them to see a doctor themselves.

Where this doesn’t work, you might consider speaking to the person’s doctor yourself. If doing so, it is best to get the person’s consent, or at least inform them that you are going to speak to their doctor. It will then be for the doctor to decide whether they disclose the information to the person.

Tips for supporting someone with memory loss

Get practical tips and advice on how you can support someone who is experiencing memory loss

Learn more

If you have a question about dementia, call our helpline to speak with our expert advisers, or join Dementia Talking Point to chat with other people in your situation.

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My friends mum is really showing all signs of dementia, but refuses help, and it's taking a toll on my friend. She knows it's the illness talking when her mum calls her a liar, denies anything is wrong, refuses doctors and care advice. But when you have no power of attorney, or a person who refuses care homes or in-house care, what are tour next steps? She is becoming dangerous to herself and detrimental to my friends mental wellbeing, not just worrying about her mum, but dealing with the emotional and verbal abuse that comes from her mother, all caused by the illness
My husband and I are experiencing exactly the same thing. We do not have power-of-attorney either. We are often accused of not telling my mum things, when she has been told numerous times. She also thinks people who are dead are still alive, and that she has a dog (which she has not had for many years). She is not abusive, but will imagine scenarios that have not happened. It is very stressful going shopping with her she will put things in the basket and then when we get to the till she says they’re not hers. She seems to be in a constant state of panic and constantly looking in her bag for her door key. Mum also says the same thing over and over again, the repeated questions get exhausting. She won’t go to the doctors and thinks there’s nothing wrong. She considers all 82-year-olds are like this, and that I will be the same when I am that age. It’s got to the stage where grandchildren avoid her, and she doesn’t know who the great grandchildren are. We just wonder where of this will all end.
Dear Mrs Clegg, Try to get her into a dementia care home where she will be looked after. The nurses will know how to deal with any aggression or denial that comes from that. Talk to them first and explain her denial. You may be able to take her there on a visit and perhaps they can tell her she is sleeping the night and show her a nice bed, you could give photos of her family members for them to put beside the bed or something else she likes (a particular animal in a frame or toy, or a particular favourite flower or colour you could use for decoration). Think of her as being your child now and not you being her child. That's how the tables have turned. I cared for my mum for six years with a severe dementia. Looking back, I could have put her in a home sooner, but I thought it was wrong and even cruel, now I think it may have been kind, as it is nice for them to have some time to settle in to their new home before end-of-life stage. Sometimes they surprise you as they no longer remember their former home and their new home becomes real and their new friends. Everything changes. Experienced dementia workers and a secure dementia environment makes the difference. Enquire with providers which homes are the best for dementia.
I am in a similar situation with my mom. She’s not been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s. She still works and takes care of her hygiene. She shops. She’s even involved in church. I am truly grateful for that. Her problem is hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions. She believes that my aunts (her sisters) and this unknown network of people are watching her, listening in on her conversations, following her around places, and somehow rigging her house with this spray of toxins. There is absolutely no evidence of any of these things happening. She smells this toxin almost every night. She stayed with me and my family (hubby and kids), shared a room with my daughter, and she swore that she was smelling a scent being sprayed in my daughter’s room. During that time, she and my dad (divorced) drove out of state to visit my brother and his family. She yelled out about being sprayed there too. She felt that people were following them and somehow got to my brother’s house and knew where she was going to be so that she could be sprayed there too. I have stopped trying to reason with her, only trying to reassure her that her cameras should catch anyone trying to get into her house. Sometimes she thinks that I am in on this. I have gone to some of her doctors appointments and explained to her doctor about what was happening. My mom got frustrated because the doctor tried to recommend counseling to her and also medication for anxiety. All the while, her own mom (my granny) is getting older and needs help. My mom believes all of this is happening to build a case against her that she is “crazy”. I don’t like using that word because it’s so negative in this situation. She doesn’t have the joy she once had. At family gatherings, she doesn’t smile, and there is almost always bickering when her sisters try to talk to her. I really could write a book about all of this. But it’s truly frustrating because all I can do is just watch her until something happens to where she can’t pay bills or take care of herself. I actually had to call her doctor because she made some threats. This resulted in police visiting her at her job. She hasn’t lost her job, and I hope she doesn’t because she needs it. Ironically, she’s an academic advisor who has recently been certified to help college students in mental crisis. She doesn’t even recognize her own crisis. I realize this is UK, but it seems that this illness doesn’t care where you live.
Try calling the Emergency Services in your country, if you need more time to talk, you can tell them the emergency isn't quite so urgent and that you will need to do some explaining first. Have a list of symptoms/problems, or the most important ones, on paper or in your head before you call. In particular, let them know what the serious RISKS to the patient are and to those around them as these will be more likely to be taken into consideration than anything else. If the patient cannot manage their diet or does not have sufficient life skills to be on their own, let them know. Perhaps it is a "second childhood" as the old-fashioned saying goes. No-one would leave a child on their own. Also, take note if the patient is combative to family only or whether likely to combat the emergency workers as well. Health workers are generally more knowledgeable than police who sometimes will rather not interfere with a person's freedom. Call the hospital on the morning of having the emergency services take the patient and tell them that you are the person who is looking after this person's care as you are concerned / next of kin, friend, etc. Tell them anything important and ask them to keep lines of communication open with you. Call them again if necessary when the person arrives. Make sure you communicate well, otherwise they may not see at a glance what the problem is. Pray! Prayers for you. I hope it goes well.
There should be more help for the people associated with dementia ie long term partners wife's husband if you have dementia your life is the same with loss of memory etc but the husband or wife partner loose someone gradually then for ever
Agree. And also close family members.
I have a 65 years old mother who is diagnozed with dementia alzheimer. We have no family member who cares so while i am at work, i need someone to look for her. But everytime we hire a nanny or a caregiver, she refused and being aggresive.. verbal and physical. What should i do? I cannot stop working cause we need money for a living, but by working its really hard to look after her alone. Do you have any advice?

Hi Vero,

We're sorry to hear about this - it sounds like a difficult and stressful situation.

We'd strongly recommend calling our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. You'll be able to talk to one of our trained dementia advisers, who can provide information, advice, and support specific to yours and your mother's situation.

You can find more details about the support line (including opening hours) here:

We hope this helps. Please do call our support line for advice.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

I’m an in-home care provider (25+ years) caring for seniors in their homes. I am currently caring for an 83 year old female patient who has been diagnosed with dementia (yrs ago). I’ve cared for her in the past and we got along spendidly. This time around things have changed. Her husband passed away 2 months ago so its just her here now, well that is it’s her and a caregiver. She’s had 24 hr care through our company for atleast a year. She has, since we began caring for her, had semi-frequent episodes where she can become “very”(!!) agressive, calling cg’s offensive, vulgar names, insisting that they leave “now” before she “throws them out. Her and I never had such an alarming encounter or even ever came close. Also at that time her husband was here to buffer. But…, this time around she, of course, doesn’t remember me and the first few hours of my shift we had a geand time visiting until she was ready to retire for the night. I asked her if she’d like me to turn down her bed (what I “used to” do every night) and she suddenly appeared to be offended. She stated that she was oerfectly capable of “taking care of herself Thank You” and “thanks for the visit bye-bye”. When I attempted to explain to her that I would be here all night to ensure her safety, the same as every other pm shift cg…, well it all went bad, really bad. She called me every derogatory name she could think of, told me it was HeR house and for me to “get the _ _ _ _ out of her house NOW” or she was going to blow my head off. Nothing I tried would. defuse or deescalate the situation and after several calls to her son(by her not by me) he finally came here and had his say. After staying up, angry & waiting for me to leave, nearly til midnight (4 hrs past her guaranteed 8pm bedtime) she was finally exhausted enough to go and barricade herself & her dog in her room. Her darling daytime cg was kind enough to get her in bed early, before my shift began so thus far we’ve had no encounters. But I can hear her poor dog at the door, needing to go outside but I can’t help her and I’m feeling unforgiveably anxious, maybe even fearful, of when “she” realizes the dog wants out and they both come walking out bedroom door and see me here again. Any suggestions?
I am very fortunate that both my parents are into their nineties. My father has been diagnosed with vascular dementia and is very accepting of his condition often apologizing for his memory, he is now on meds for an aggressive incident and has responded well to the treatment. My question is ? my mother is now starting to have paranoid thoughts about her neighbours, we had her assessed a few years ago and she too has vascular dementia. The problem is she will not allow anyone else to review her as they are all plotting against her, she is becoming quite irrational with her thinking, and hygiene has deteriorated. I am struggling for her to take blood pressure meds and have found them hidden. She then blames my dad's condition saying he's moving everything. She unlike my dad refuses to admit she has a problem.

Hi Maxine,

We're sorry to hear this, it sounds like a difficult situation to be in. Please know that we're here for you if you need us.

You can call our support line on 0333 150 3456 to speak with one of our trained dementia advisers. They will listen to you and provide specific information and advice to help. Find more details about the support line (including opening hours and other methods of contact) here:

We hope this helps for now.

Alzheimer's Society website team

My dad is 91 with Alzheimer's and is still driving and has his own place the Dr said he can't drive anymore and needs to move with me he doesn't want to stop driving or give up his place so what do I do?

Hi Maud,

To answer the first part of your question, if a doctor has said someone with dementia shouldn’t drive anymore then they should not continue driving. But they can appeal to the DVLA if they wish to challenge the decision. Find more information on what to do when the DVLA decides that a person with dementia must stop driving here:  

However, no one can be forced to live with anyone else or leave their home without any legal reason. We'd strongly recommend calling our support line on 0333 150 3456 to speak with one of our trained dementia about this. They can find out more about your situation, discuss your rights and offer advice. You can find more details about the support line (including opening hours and other methods of contact) here:

We hope this helps for now, Maud. Please do call our support line.

Alzheimer's Society website team

My grandad has been showing a lot of signs of dementia; his short term memory is terrible and he’s forgetting an awful lot but refuses to be seen by the gp; is there any advice you can offer to encourage someone to go?

Hi Sascha,

We'd recommend calling our support line on 0333 150 3456 to speak with one of our trained dementia advisers. They will be able to provide specific information, advice and support to help with your situation. You can find more details about the support line (including opening hours) here:

We hope this helps. 

Alzheimer's Society blog team

My wife who has been diagnosed with vascular dementia refuses to have her hair cut. Any suggestions?
The advice given here sounds good but fails to recognise that sufferers do not think rationally and a series of rational reasoned points such as " I have noticed that you forget xyz" will generally not be any use. My father simply wouldn't take part in a rational conversation at all. When he had his diagnosis letter he simply forgot it and then denied it's existence.
I agree. What's the point in getting an 'official' diagnosis when Mum is still not aware that Dad died a year ago or that the dog is a girl and certainly not a cat... There's no possibility of a rational conversation, just listening and agreeing. No point contradicting as it creates frustration followed by swearing. Just got to make the most of the joyful moments...
The lady I take care of is showing signs of Alzheimer's, she does not know what day it is or day of week and thought this past Sunday was Easter, even though she went out to eat with a neighbor for Easter Sunday, she has short term memory loss and won't tell her doctor any of this because she does not want to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's or dementia
My spouse is showing signs of dementia! He refuses to get tested and gets very agitated and aggressive when you mention it. He has lost so much weight and looks so unhealthy. If I am not home to cook for him he doesn’t eat. How can I convince him to seek help??

Hi, we are sorry to hear about the difficult situation with your spouse.

We recommend speaking with one of our trained dementia advisers to discuss the situation in more detail. They will be able to provide you with information and advice specific to you.

Please call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. (More information on opening times:

We hope this helps.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

Hi i also had this problem with my husband , so i had a discreet word in confidence with his doctor , who did a routine check , which he was diagnosed with memory loss & checked with the memory clinic . So no angry words or getting annoyed with me . He believed the dr found out himself .
I have wondered about making an appointment to discuss the issues with the GP just to see if they can find out what is going on, but no one at the surgery will discuss or even listen to anything you say, regarding someone else, unless they have the persons’ permission. (They have said in the past that they can’t even let me know if my husband is in the surgery somewhere, even if the car is parked outside, citing data protection!) I’ve even mentioned symptoms to a nurse who says she will pass the information on to the GP - but nothing was ever said or done. It seems as though we are on our own and the professionals don’t seem to want to know unless the person goes to them with a problem themselves, which they won’t do as they don’t want to acknowledge there is a problem and become aggressive when anything is mentioned.
I would discuss this directly with the doctor during an appointment, and not with anyone else at the surgery. Also try carers organizations in your country and see if you are defined as a carer. Even a next-of-kin usually has a right at a hospital situation (for example) to have information on someone with a cognitive issue like dementia in order to help them. Not everyone is unco-operative, keep trying, and try all the organizations that you can, until you get someone with real knowledge and care. Prayers for you.
My nan lives with her long term partner. Myself, my brothers, my dad, my uncles and my auntie have also noticed significant changes in my nan and her memory - but her partner won’t allow us to help. My auntie contacted my nan’s gp and following this my nan’s partner received a phone call offering an appointment for my nan to be assessed but he declined saying that she was fine. As he lives with her and he’s with her constantly we’re really struggling with what to do, I understand that this must be very difficult for him but we want to help him too, unfortunately he doesn’t see it like that. What can we do?
Do some of the signs of Dementia include things like deciding that you only need 7 pairs of underwear, 7 pairs of socks , trousers shirts etc and insisting he removes the wardrobe and chest of drawers as he wont have need for them ? My Fil has had memory issues for a few yrs but has passed the 5 word test twice however we are now getting this behaviour which includes sudden aggression over nothing rather like a child , accidents in bed and constantly walking around with his shirt off ..he won't put one on unless we take him out somewhere his excuse is he may get food on it , refusing to shower unless we say hes going out, not shaving and wearing the same vlothes for days yet if we ask him to change he agrees but then doesnt change ..seeing no issues with items being dirty etc ..he constantly calls my husband by the wrong name going through all sons names till hubby tells him that's right one dad ..hubby and I are trying to help but our hands are tied by youngest son and his refusal to see or admit he needs help to the point he has stopped talking to us. I am worried about hom being exploited as he is silly over money when it comes to eldest and youngest sons just handing it out ..we are worried what do we do to protect him and help him at the same time ..note he does not cook or do any meals we dort these as he left something in the oven till it was charcoal and has a fixation on the heating being off due to the bills ..( he owes nothing on ) even in middle of winter for last 2 yrs we have to keep putting it on daily. ..any ideas gratefully recieved ..

Hello Nicki, thank you for getting in touch. We're sorry to hear this, it sounds like a difficult situation for you all. Please know we're here to support you.

We'd strongly recommend calling our support line. If you are based in the UK, you can speak to one of our trained dementia advisors by calling 0333 150 3456. They will listen and learn more about your situation and concerns, and may be able to provide support or guidance that's specific to your FIL (More information on opening times:

We hope this helps, Nicki. Please do call our support line. 

Alzheimer's Society blog team

The short answer is that many of these problems are typical dementia behaviour - there is no logic, and every patient is different.
There are so many conditions that need to be ruled out when someone has cognitive symptoms. There are things like frontotemporal dementia and even brain tumours, and having an MRI may rule out some things. Those issues do sound like real cognitive issues, some of them to do with reasoning and judgment, so perhaps the frontal part of the brain. Gently encourage the patient so that you can take them to get help now if you can, before it becomes more difficult.
We have had to place my mother in law into a care home recently. . She was living independently until Christmas. She was diagnosed with vascular dementia roughly 5 years ago and we had begun to notice changes in her memory. We brought her to our home at Christmas and she became delusional and was hallucinating. Her GP advised that it was time for her to go into care. She was assessed by the care home and she agreed that it would be the best course of action. She later admitted that she had not been eating and felt unable to bathe. However, now that she is in care she is extremely verbally aggressive to my husband and myself and accuses us of tricking her into going into care. She repeatedly says that she wants to go home. Her aggression is upsetting us both and we do not know how to handle it and are unsure of how often we should now visit her. We wonder when we visit if it is giving her false hope. My husband telephones the home daily and at times speaks to her. He gets a mixed reception from her , sometimes she recognises she is in the beset place and sometimes says she never wants to speak to us again. We really don’t know the best way to cope.

Hi Sheila,

We're really sorry to hear about your mother in law, it sounds like such a difficult situation to be in. Please know that you aren't alone, and we're here for you.

You can always call our support line on 0333 150 3456 to speak with one of our trained dementia advisers. They will listen to you and provide specific information, advice and support to help. You can find more details about the support line (including opening hours and other methods of contact) here:

You might also find our article, ‘What to say to someone with dementia in care', helpful. It has some tips on how to manage the conversation when someone with dementia says they want to go home:

We hope this helps for now, Sheila. Please do call our support line if you need advice or support.

Alzheimer's Society website team

I need some advice/help. My 80 year old step father,lost his long term female fiance in June of 2022. Since her passing he is having visual and auditory hallucinations that she is there. That she can come and go from her burial place at the cemetery. He believes that there are 3 people who go and get her from the cemetery and bring her to see him at night. He then says she is gone in the morning. He has been calling people to find how he can get there to stay with him, including the funeral director. My dad was a very prominent man in our community. His mother had Alzheimer's and his twin sister was just recently diagnosed. When I was home to visit I asked him to go and get assessed, but he said he still knows where he lives so he is ok. My brother, sister-in-law and myself have been trying to get him to see a doctor,but he refuses. What should our next move be. Thank you in advance.

Hi Denise, we're sorry to hear about your dad's situation and recent loss. This sounds like a difficult time for you and your family. Please know we're here for you.

We'd recommend calling our support line on 0333 150 3456 to speak with one of our trained dementia advisers. They will be able to provide specific information, advice and support to help with your situation. You can find more details about the support line (including opening hours and other methods of contact) here:  

We hope this helps, Denise.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

Hi, my dad has Alzheimer's and had similar hallucinations after my mother died. He kept seeing her in the house & had conversations with her. Since he moved into a care home this has stopped & he's forgotten that she died & asks me every visit what she's doing.