A new study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society shows that telling patients and caregivers about a diagnosis of Alzheimer's early on does not cause increased depressed mood, as doctors had previously thought.
The current study was conducted at Washington University's School of Medicine. Participants for the study were recruited when potential patients called to make an appointment with the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.
A total of 90 patients and their caregivers participated in the study. Before each patient underwent an evaluation at the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, they were asked questions about their mood, expectations for their evaluation, and their family history.
Participants and caregivers were also called two days after their appointment at the Center and were asked questions about their mood and their diagnosis.
Sixty-nine percent of participants were given a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. The researchers found that both the patients and caregivers levels of depression did not increase significantly, while their levels of anxiety decreased dramatically.
The authors of this study assert that both patients and caregivers feel a sense of relief when they receive a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. They hypothesize this is the case because when a diagnosis of Alzheimer's is made early, patients can take an active part in planning their future treatment. An early diagnosis of Alzheimer's also allows physicians to prescribe their patients medication that can delay Alzheimer's symptoms. Delaying symptoms may also delay the need for patients to be placed into a nursing home.
The authors also suggest caregivers feel relief when they get the diagnosis of Alzheimer's because they can prepare for the future as well.
The authors indicate this is the first study that has examined both patient and caregiver feelings about a diagnosis of Alzheimer's shortly after they received it.
I think a major limitation to this study is that the researchers did not continue to follow-up with the patients and caregivers beyond the two-day period. It is unclear if there is merely a sense of relief immediately after the diagnosis is given or if this relief continues for weeks or months after the diagnosis. I think future research should examine patient and caregiver feelings weeks and months after they received a diagnosis of Alzheimer's in order to determine how long the sense of relief lasts.
If you would like to learn more about this study please visit: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080303190543.htm.
If you would like to learn more about Alzheimer's disease, you may visit my article about the disease or the Alzheimer's Association.