From: Reuters
Published April 18, 2008 01:59 PM

Patients often relieved after dementia diagnosis

By Joene Hendry

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Doctors should not hesitate to sensitively relay a dementia diagnosis to their patients as such information is not likely to prompt a catastrophic emotional reaction, reports Dr. Brian D. Carpenter.

"Instead, people are more likely to feel relieved at the news," Carpenter told Reuters Health. "Starting treatment earlier may slow the progression of the disease in some patients, and knowing a person has dementia enables patients and family members to prepare for the future," he noted.

Carpenter and his colleagues at St. Louis' Washington University in Missouri, examined short-term changes in feelings of depression and anxiety expressed by 90 elderly individuals both before and after they were assessed for changes in memory function. The investigators also assessed similar changes among the subjects' companions.

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The testing identified 69 percent of the individuals with dementia. Two-thirds had mild cognitive impairment indicative of the earliest symptomatic stages of dementia.

Symptoms of anxiety and depression did not significantly change in the individuals or their companions after learning whether or not the subjects had dementia, the researchers report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The severity of the dementia diagnosis, age, gender, and level of education of the study participants did not alter these findings.

"Most clinical practice guidelines urge physicians to be candid with their patients about a dementia diagnosis," Carpenter commented. These results suggest doctors can feel at ease relaying such a diagnosis. However, the delivery of a dementia diagnosis may need to be tailored in certain rare circumstances of emotional fragility, Carpenter said.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, March 2008

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