Receiving a Dignified Diagnosis in Geriatric Care

eldercare, geriatric care, caring for parentsIf you are caring for parents and you are concerned about the possibility of Alzheimer's disease, seeking geriatric care that results in an accurate diagnosis is paramount. The Alzheimer's Association recognizes the need for an accurate diagnosis, but they also want to ensure that the diagnostic process is dignified - that is, eldercare professionals should be helpful, respectful, and sensitive as well as thorough in their evaluations.

To address this issue, the Alzheimer's Association recently held four regional town hall meetings attended by over 800 participants; over 300 of the participants had Alzheimer's disease. The purpose of the meetings was to gain insights from those with Alzheimer's about how the diagnostic process in geriatric care could be improved.

The meetings resulted in the document Principles for a Dignified Diagnosis, the first document of its kind written by people with Alzheimer's disease about diagnostic challenges and frustrating interactions with the eldercare community. Here are some of the recommendations that appear in the document:

  • Geriatric care professionals should talk to patients with Alzheimer's directly and before talking to the person's relatives.
  • Physicians should tell patients the truth and should not leave anything out.
  • Eldercare physicians should order appropriate tests early to get an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible. Additionally, the tests should be explained and administered with patience.
  • Physicians should take older patients seriously and not just attribute memory problems to old age.
  • Geriatric care specialists should communicate in simple yet sensitive language.
  • Physicians should communicate, cooperate, and coordinate with other Alzheimer's care providers instead of treating patients in a disconnected way.
  • After diagnosis, physicians should follow up by providing educational tools and connections to community resources; they should also treat patients holistically by discussing lifestyle changes as well as medications.
  • Eldercare professionals should respect a patient's individuality and act as an advocate, not just someone who writes prescriptions.

The geriatric care community needs to know that families facing Alzheimer's disease want a dignified diagnosis; they also need to know what constitutes a dignified diagnosis.

What are your thoughts about these principles? If you are caring for parents with Alzheimer's disease, what was the diagnostic experience like in your case? Post a comment to this blog, and be sure to join our email list to receive regular updates about new eldercare topics posted on

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