Receiving a diagnosis of dementia does not prompt a strong negative reaction in most people and may even provide relief because it explains symptoms and makes patients feel less helpless, concludes a recent study.
To gauge psychological reactions to a dementia diagnosis, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis conducted telephone interviews with patients a few days after they received a dementia diagnosis. Two tests were used: the Geriatric Depression Scale and the "State" version of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. Both patients and their companions took the tests. Baseline scores were obtained through comprehensive physical and neurological examinations. Of 90 study participants, 41 were diagnosed with very mild dementia, 21 with mild dementia, and 28 with no dementia.
The researchers found no significant increase in depression in individuals or their companions, regardless of diagnostic outcome or dementia severity. The level of anxiety also did not increase—and decreased significantly in some cases.
Carpenter, B.D., et al. Reaction to a dementia diagnosis in individuals with Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2008. 56:405-12.
More information for health care professionals about communicating with older patients is provided in the NIA publication Talking With Your Older Patient: A Clinician's Handbook.