Why Aren't Physicians Disclosing Alzheimer's Dx to Patients, Caregivers?

Why Aren't Physicians Disclosing Alzheimer's Dx to Patients, Caregivers?
Why Aren't Physicians Disclosing Alzheimer's Dx to Patients, Caregivers?

In a new report from the Alzheimer's Association, only 45% of patients with Alzheimer's disease or their caregivers stated that they were told the diagnosis by their physician and were more likely to be told the diagnosis after the disease had become more advanced.

As part of the 2015 Facts and Figures report, Medicare records and responses to the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) were analyzed for the years 2008–2010 to identify patients with at least one claim related to specific medication conditions, including Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Responses on the MCBS were reviewed to determine if the respondent indicated that they had been informed by their physician that they had the indicated conditions. If the individual was unable to answer the question, a family member or caregiver provided this information.

The results indicated that the disclosure rate for Alzheimer's disease was 45% and only 27% among those diagnosed with other conditions that cause dementia. Disclosure rates for other medical conditions such as breast cancer, cardiovascular disease other than stroke, arthritis, and diabetes were significantly higher (96%, 90%, 81%, and 70%, respectively).

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Previous studies have suggested that healthcare providers are less likely to disclose the diagnosis in the early states for fear of causing the patient emotional distress. However, studies have found that few patients become depressed or have other long-term emotional issues due to the diagnosis. Twenty-five percent of healthcare providers in one study indicated that the lack of treatments to modify the course of the disease was a factor in not disclosing the diagnosis to patients.

The report calls for healthcare professionals to consider the ability of the patient and caregiver to understand and cope with the diagnosis, social and cultural factors, and varying approaches for diagnosis disclosure.

For more information visit Alz.org.

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