Receiving a diagnosis of dementia: The experience over time

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Abstract

There are strong opinions about the advantages and disadvantages of a disclosure of dementia to the individual affected, but little is known about how they and their families understand and respond to this information. This article reports and examines the impact of receiving a diagnosis of dementia, by comparing descriptions of its impact at two weeks, with descriptions explored at 12 weeks. Interviews were undertaken on two occasions with 18 couples, one of whom had received a diagnosis of dementia, the other being a family member. The interviews revealed a gradual process of realization of what the diagnosis meant, resulting in important subtle changes in understandings of dementia and personal relationships. Disclosure of dementia occurs at one point in time, but its impact should be seen as a process. Suggestions are made on how the process of diagnosis and its sharing may enhance family partnerships and social relationships through support of both individuals with dementia and families.

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