Reaction to a dementia diagnosis in individuals with Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2008 Mar;56(3):405-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2007.01600.x. Epub 2008 Jan 5.


Objectives: To examine short-term changes in depression and anxiety after receiving a dementia diagnosis.

Design: Pre/post survey design.

Setting: Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.

Participants: Ninety individuals and their companions.

Measurements: Fifteen-item Geriatric Depression Scale and 20-item "state" version of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory.

Results: Sixty-nine percent of the individuals were diagnosed with dementia; two-thirds of those were in the earliest symptomatic stages of dementia that, in other settings, is considered to represent mild cognitive impairment. No significant changes in depression were noted in individuals or their companions, regardless of diagnostic outcome or dementia severity. Anxiety decreased substantially after diagnostic feedback in most groups.

Conclusion: Disclosure of a dementia diagnosis does not prompt a catastrophic emotional reaction in most people, even those who are only mildly impaired, and may provide some relief once an explanation for symptoms is known and a treatment plan is developed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis*
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology*
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Friends / psychology
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology