Telling the diagnosis to patients with Alzheimer's disease

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7077.375b (Published 01 February 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:375

Relatives should act as proxy for patient

  1. R C Barnes, Senior registrar in old age psychiatrya
  1. a Hesketh Centre, Southport PR6
  2. b Dan y Bryn, Eureka Place, Ebbw Vale NP3 6PN
  3. c St Cadoc's Hospital, Newport NP6 1XQ
  4. d Whitchurch Hospital, Cardiff CF4 7XB
  5. e University of Wales College of Medicine, Llandough Hospital, Cardiff CF64 2XX

    Editor–I was interested to read Conor P Maguire and colleagues' short report about the attitudes of family members toward telling patients with Alzheimer's disease their diagnosis1 because I recently performed a similar (though smaller) study in central Liverpool. In contrast to Maguire and colleagues, I found that 17 of 30 first degree relatives wanted their relative to know of the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. Reasons for this included “it's no use hiding it,” “they could try to keep their mind working,” “they could sort out their legal affairs,” and “they could explain why they couldn't remember things.” Several suggested that, even if not told, patients would “work it out for themselves.”

    The issue is important for several reasons. Firstly, there are legal matters (for example, enduring power of attorney) that need to be resolved early in dementia, while the patient is …

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