Does my mother have Alzheimer’s? Does your dad have it? How about granny? According to a new report by the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 50 percent of patients or their families have never been given a diagnosis.
Years ago, the only way to say with certainty that a person had Alzheimer’s was through an autopsy. Today, there are other tests that can determine if someone has Alzheimer’s. Yet, many doctors don’t disclose the disease despite guidelines from a half dozen advocacy organizations that urge doctors to be forthright using “plain but sensitive language,” according to a study released March 24 by the Alzheimer’s Association. “It is still common for patients and their caregivers to not be made aware of a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, or to be left with insufficient understanding of the true nature of the diagnosis.”
Why? In some cases, doctors are concerned about causing distress to the person hearing the diagnosis. In an analysis of Medicare records the Alzheimer’s Assocation found that only 45 percent of people with Alzheimer’s (or their caregiver) were told of their condition. By contrast, 93 percent of people with common cancers such as breast or colon cancer were told of their condition.
If you suspect Alzheimer’s, have a frank conversation with your doctor or the doctor of the person for whom you are the caregiver. Then figure out a way to break the news for the person with the diagnosis. It might be hard but truth is the best way to set the ball in motion to getting a care plan figured out.