Fewer than half of Alzheimer's patients given their diagnosis

Fewer than half of Alzheimer's patients given diagnosis

Fewer than half of Alzheimer's patients or their caretakers were given their diagnosis by their doctor, according to a new report from the Alzheimer's Association.

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The 2015 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report also found that over 90 percent of people with the four most common types of cancer -- breast, lung, prostate, and colorectal -- have been told of their diagnosis.

"These disturbingly low disclosure rates in Alzheimer's disease are reminiscent of rates seen for cancer in the 1950s and 60s, when even mention of the word cancer was taboo," said Beth Kallmyer, vice president of Constituent Services for the Alzheimer's Association.

“It is of utmost importance to respect people’s autonomy, empower them to make their own decisions and acknowledge that people with Alzheimer’s have every right to expect truthful discussions with their physicians. When a diagnosis is disclosed, they can better understand the changes they are experiencing, maximize their quality of life and often play an active role in planning for the future.”

One paper investigating Alzheimer's diagnoses found that as few as 36 percent of doctors said they usually told their patients if they had the disease. The doctors who withheld the diagnosis said they feared causing emotional distress and lacked time and resources to fully explain what the diagnosis means.

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Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and those with Alzheimer's live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others. However, survival can range from four to 20 years depending on age and other conditions, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

There is no known cure for Alzheimer's, and it is the only disease in the top 10 causes of death in the United States that cannot be prevented or slowed.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, there are 5.3 million Americans with Alzheimer's, including an estimated 5.1 million age 65 and older. Almost two-thirds of Alzheimer's sufferers are women. Older African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely than older whites to have Alzheimer's and other dementias.

The number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer's disease is estimated to reach 7.1 million by 2025.

A 2014 study published in the British Medical Journal found that a link between common medications known as benzodiazepines, which are used for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia and related disorders, and are prescribed for almost half of elders in the United States -- and the development of Alzheimer's.

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