When it comes to a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, what you don't know may not kill you, but knowing the truth as soon as possible appears to be the better approach one that may improve the emotional well-being of both patients and their caregivers, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis. Medical advances have made it possible to diagnose Alzheimer's at very early stages, but a 2004 review of research found about half of all physicians were still reluctant to inform patients of an Alzheimer's diagnosis. While many physicians fear a dementia diagnosis would only further upset an already troubled patient, this follow-up study found quite the opposite.
"We undertook this study because we wanted there to be some data out there that addressed this question and that we could show to physicians and say, 'Most of the people don't get depressed, upset and suicidal. So, this fear that you have about telling them and disturbing them is probably not legitimate for most people,'" says Brian Carpenter, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University.
The study, published in the current Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, is co-authored by Carpenter and colleagues in the Division of Biostatistics, the Department of Neurology and the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the University's School of Medicine.
In their study, they followed 90 individuals and their caregivers as they came to the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center for an evaluation. Sixty-nine percent eventually got a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, but no significant changes in depression were noted and anxiety decreased substantially.
"The major finding is that both patients and their families feel relief, not increased anxiety, upon learning the diagnosis," says study co-author John C. Morris, M.D., the Harvey A. and Dorismae Hacker Friedman Distinguished Professor of Neurology and director of the Alzhe
|Contact: Brian Carpenter|
Washington University in St. Louis