Do older adults presenting with memory complaints wish to be told if later diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease?

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Abstract

Background

Many patients with Alzheimer's disease are not told their diagnosis. Studies have shown that relatives possess mixed views regarding whether or not patients should be told while elderly peers favour disclosure. Recent studies have shown that patients with diagnosed dementia also favour being told. The present study sought the views of patients prior to diagnosis.

Method

Participants were a consecutive sample of patients aged 65 and over suffering from memory complaints. They were asked what they considered to be causing their memory problems and whether or not they would want to know the cause. They were then specifically asked if they would want to know if diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and what were their reasons for this.

Results

Two-thirds of patients were uncertain regarding the cause of their memory difficulties although the remainder did offer some valid explanations. Eighty-six per cent wanted to know the cause while 69% wanted to know if diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and a variety of reasons were offered to support their preference.

Conclusion

The majority of older adults presenting to services with memory complaints had little understanding of the potential cause of their problems. Most were nevertheless keen to know the cause, even if this transpired to be Alzheimer's disease. The clinical implications of the findings are discussed and suggestions made for future research.

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