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The Gerontologist 44:500-507 (2004)
© 2004 The Gerontological Society of America

Attitudes Toward the Diagnosis and Disclosure of Dementia Among Family Caregivers and Primary Care Physicians

Cathleen M Connell, PhD1,, Linda Boise, PhD2, John C. Stuckey, PhD3, Sara B. Holmes, MPH1 and Margaret L. Hudson, MPH1

Correspondence: Address correspondence to Cathleen M Connell, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health, 1420 Washington Heights, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029. E-mail: cathleen{at}

Purpose: This study examined attitudes of caregivers and physicians toward assessing and diagnosing dementia, with an emphasis on how a diagnosis is disclosed. Design and Methods: Seventeen focus group interviews were conducted with caregivers or physicians from three sites; 52 caregivers participated in nine interviews (three each at the three sites), and 39 physicians participated in eight interviews (three each at two sites; two at one site). Structured interview protocols were used to assess diagnostic disclosure, first reactions, and suggestions for improving the diagnostic process. Results: Caregivers recounted a highly negative emotional response to the disclosure, whereas many physicians reported that families handled the information well. Caregivers expressed a range of preferences for how the diagnosis should have been disclosed, from a direct approach to having the physician ease them into the results. Implications: Whenever possible, physicians should consult with the patient and family at the outset of the diagnostic process to better understand their preferences for diagnostic disclosure. Addressing diagnostic disclosure as part of physician education programs on dementia is recommended.

Key Words: Alzheimer's disease • Disclosure • Qualitative methods • Focus group interviews

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Copyright © 2004 by The Gerontological Society of America.