Being open about Alzheimer's disease is important, says local expert
An Alzheimer’s Association report released in March shows that most Alzheimer patients aren’t told about their diagnosis. One central New York expert says that can be harmful.
Dr. Sharon Brangman, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Assistance Center at Upstate Medical University, wasn’t surprised when she heard that only 45 percent of those with the degenerative brain disease got a diagnosis from their doctor.
"In my practice, we get referrals from a lot of physicians, and we often see patients with pretty obvious dementia who have never been told they had it before,” said Brangman. “Families say this is the first time anyone ever mentioned it to us.”
Brangman says many doctors don’t have time for the long discussion an Alzheimer diagnosis requires.
“Most doctors right now, have a very compressed amount of time to spend with patients. And this is a discussion that takes time. Our offices are just so busy it’s hard to have this discussion. The other thing is it’s not easy to deliver tough news.”
But she says it’s important so patients can have a say in their future, and families need to know how to help. And she says Alzheimer’s is what is called a foundational disease.
“When somebody has Alzheimer’s disease, it may be difficult to manage their hypertension, their diabetes, their heart failure. They may not to remember to take their medicines. They may be doing things that are unsafe, that could make other medical problems worse,” said Brangman.