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Relatives' attitudes towards informing patients about the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease

Abstract

Objectives: To evaluate relatives’ attitudes towards informing patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) about their diagnosis.

Setting: A university hospital in Italy.

Methods: The closest relatives of each of 71 subjects diagnosed for the first time as having AD were interviewed, using a semistructured questionnaire. Spontaneous requests by relatives not to communicate issues concerning the diagnosis were also recorded.

Results: Forty three (60.6%) relatives spontaneously requested that patients not be fully informed. After being interviewed, nobody thought that the patient should be given all the information. Justifications were related to the fear of the onset or worsening of depressive symptoms in the patient.

Conclusions: In Italy relatives’ opposition to informing AD patients appears to be common. Knowledge of the relatives’ attitudes may be useful for clinicians but disclosure of diagnosis should be based on the clinical evaluation of the patient and on a prudent evaluation of the relationship between the patient and her/his relative caregiver.

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • physician/patient relations
  • truth disclosure
  • caregivers/psychology
  • ethics

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