Attitudes of elderly subjects toward "truth telling" for the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease

J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol. 2003 Jun;16(2):90-3. doi: 10.1177/0891988703016002005.


This study expands on previous research regarding attitudes of older adults toward disclosure of the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Two hundred patients 65 years or older completed a questionnaire assessing opinions about being told the diagnosis of AD versus cancer. Most responded they wanted to be told if they had AD or terminal cancer (92% for AD, 86.5% for cancer, P = .06). Those with personal experience with AD were significantly less likely to want to know themselves if they had AD than were those without personal experience (P < .0001). A variety of reasons were given for wanting to be told the diagnosis of AD, including a small minority (1.7%) who would consider suicide. Although these results appear to support recent American Medical Association guidelines favoring disclosure of a dementia diagnosis, complex issues remain. Further research is needed to develop guidelines for physicians in disclosing dementia diagnoses that includes outcome studies of disclosure to patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis*
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Female
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Truth Disclosure*