Preparing for the diagnosis
The person undergoing the assessment for dementia should be allowed to decide if they want to know if the diagnosis is confirmed.
In general, if a person is aware that they are going for a diagnosis they will be able to make that choice.
It is recommended that a person with dementia be told of their diagnosis. However, a person has a right not to know their diagnosis if that is their clear and informed preference.
How to share the diagnosis
Sharing the initial news of the diagnosis may come from any one of a number of people.
The doctor or specialist, assessment team or members of the family may talk to the person about the diagnosis either individually or as a group.
You might consider having someone present at the time of telling to provide extra support.
Planning ahead about the best way to share the diagnosis will make it easier.
As individual responses will be different, careful consideration must be given to every individual situation.
There are some considerations that will be generally helpful when talking with a person about their diagnosis:
Ensure that the setting is quiet and without competing noise and distractions.
Speak slowly and directly to the person.
Give one message at a time.
Allow time for the person to absorb the information and to form questions. Information may need to be added later.
Written information about dementia can be helpful to take away and provides a helpful reference. Dementia Australia has information written specifically for people with dementia. In some instances this information is available in video or audio format. Contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
Ensure that someone is available to support the person after being told about the diagnosis.
What information to share
As a general guideline a number of things will need to be explained:
- An explanation as to why the symptoms are occurring.
- A discussion of the particular form of dementia, in terms that are appropriate to the person’s level of understanding.
- Any possible treatment for symptoms.
- The specialised services and support programs that are available for people with dementia.
Informing a person that they have dementia is a serious matter, which needs to be handled with great sensitivity and dignity.
It can be a very stressful time for everyone. Don’t forget to look after yourself.
Dementia Australia offers confidential counselling and support for families, carers and people with dementia.
Contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.