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Patient Educ Couns. 2008 Feb;70(2):220-6. Epub 2007 Dec 11.

Telling "the truth" in dementia--do attitude and approach of general practitioners and specialists differ?

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  • 1Institute of Primary Medical Care, University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf, Martinistrasse 52, 20246 Hamburg, Germany.



The prevailing opinion in the literature that disclosing the diagnosis of dementia to patients is important is not always put into practice. The purpose of this study was to investigate differences between GPs and specialists (neurologists and psychiatrists) in the German ambulatory care system concerning the disclosure of the diagnosis of dementia.


Thirty in depth interviews with randomly selected GPs were conducted. On this basis a standardised questionnaire was developed and sent to 389 GPs and 239 neurologists and psychiatrists.


The postal survey revealed only minor differences between GPs and specialists, both groups being equally in favour of a timely disclosure. For example, 70% of the GPs and 77% of the specialists strongly agreed that "patients with dementia should be informed early because of the possibility to plan their lives". This positive attitude is pronounced among younger physicians, but is somewhat contradicted by difficulties in the communication with patients expressed in the interviews. In the interviews, what may be described as a "double taboo" emerges, in that GPs describe taboo topic areas related to dementia for them and for their patients.


The postal survey shows the two professional groups to be very much in favour of a timely disclosure--an attitude that is pronounced among younger physicians. These findings can be interpreted as a recent change of attitudes regarding the disclosure of the diagnosis of dementia in the medical profession.


Training opportunities are needed in order to overcome communication obstacles in the doctor-patient-communication about dementia.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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