This sentence from an Alzheimer’s Association website article jumped right off the screen at me:
Most people living with Alzheimer’s Disease are not aware of their diagnosis.
“Despite…the benefits of clear and accurate disclosure,” the article continued, “[only about 45 percent] of seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s…[have been] told the diagnosis by their health care provider.” And their caregivers don’t know either. On the other hand, more than 90 percent…of cancer and cardiovascular patients do know their diagnoses.
There is still only one way to diagnose Alzheimer’s definitively and that’s through brain autopsy. If the person exhibited Alzheimer-like symptoms while alive and the brain tissue contains the microscopic physical abnormalities typical of the disease, a definitive diagnoses can be made.
Physicians can correctly diagnose Alzheimer’s disease about 90 percent of the time while the patient is alive, based on mental and behavioral symptoms, physical examinations, neuropsychological tests, and lab tests.
But there’s still no cure.
Peter’s neurologist diagnosed his dementia about seven years ago. She didn’t use the “A” word, rather she said simply, “Dementia.” I breathed a sigh of relief, and when we got into the car to come home, I started crying. Peter wondered why.
“Because you don’t have Alzheimer’s,” I said, “it’s ‘only’ dementia.”
“Is that good?” he asked.
“Well, no, but it’s better than Alzheimer’s,” I said.
He asked no further questions then or since. Every now and then he’ll say his memory is getting worse, so I remind him it won’t get better. I’ve never used the dreaded “A” word, but I wonder if I should? Deep down, does he know?
Have I done my husband a disservice by not laying it out? Should I attempt to do it now? If he already knows or suspects, he would never say anything. That’s not his style. He’s always played things close to his chest.
Experts advise telling patients and families because
of the need to:
- Plan for the future
- Take care of financial and legal matters
- Address potential safety issues
- Learn about possible future living arrangements
- Develop support networks
Been there, done all that, without having The Conversation. Have I done him wrong, to paraphrase a line from an old Mae West movie? I don’t know.
I really had to look hard for something to fulfill my laugh-a-day pledge. This one works for me. Hope it does for you.
The doctor says to his patient, “I have good news and bad news.”
‘Tell me the bad news first, Doc.”
“You have Alzheimer’s disease.”
“Oh no! What’s the good news?”
“You can go home and forget about it.”
Graphics Alzheimer’s Organization©