Background and purpose: Many people fear that the disclosure of the diagnosis of Alzheimer disease (AD) to patients will prompt depressive symptoms or catastrophic reactions. We aimed to prospectively evaluate the modification of anxiety and depressive symptoms 3 months after the disclosure of the diagnosis of AD.
Methods: A total of 100 consecutive newly diagnosed patients with AD (mild or moderate stage) and their caregivers were included. The evolution of symptoms of depression and anxiety was assessed with the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale (Zung SDS) and the depression item of the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI-d) and the anxiety item of the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI-a). After 3 months, the caregivers were asked their opinions on the global effect of the disclosure using a Likert-type scale.
Results: At 3 months, there was no significant change in the mean NPI-d (P = .87) and Zung SDS (P = .18) and a significant reduction in the NPI-a (P = .05). The NPI-d worsened in 22% of patients, improved in 22%, and remained unchanged in 56%. The NPI-a worsened in 12% of patients, improved in 33%, and remained unchanged in 54%. The caregivers rated the global effect of the disclosure as negative in 8%, neutral in 71%, and positive in 21% of patients. None of the patients or their proxies reported suicide attempts or catastrophic reactions.
Conclusions: The disclosure of AD is safe in most cases and may improve anxiety. Symptoms of depression and anxiety worsen only in a minority of patients. The fear of depression or catastrophic reaction should not prevent clinicians to disclose the diagnosis of AD.
Keywords: Alzheimer disease; anxiety; depression; diagnosis; disclosure.
© The Author(s) 2014.