River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Fear of Diagnosis Puts Patients at Risk

December 2002

Alzheimer's - three years is far too long for someone to wait

On Monday, 8 July the Alzheimer's Society unveiled the first results of their biggest ever research study into patient experience of diagnosis. The three-year research findings indicate that half of all carers delayed visiting their GP after first noticing something was wrong - the average delay was three years.

Professor Murna Downs, one of the key researchers, said: "Three years is far too long for someone to wait - we need to let people know that there are many new services and drug treatments for people with dementia. For those who may benefit from the new drug treatments, the earlier these are prescribed, the better. There is clearly still a lot of stigma and misunderstanding attached to dementia."

When diagnosis is delayed or avoided, people are left struggling alone for much longer than necessary.

It's not only that people have difficulties in talking about dementia; many GPs and other health care professionals have difficulty in diagnosing dementia.

The research also found that health professionals find it difficult to talk to people with dementia. Less than a third of GPs and nurses feel confident about giving a diagnosis or talking to someone about their diagnosis of dementia. Over a fifth of carers said they had been given no diagnosis.

Harry Cayton, chief execu-tive of the Alzheimer's Society said: "People with dementia are clear in what they want. Among the things they value are an accurate diagnosis given sensitively, prompt referral to specialist services, access to new treatments and good information about dementia and about support services."

The press office can provide carers and people with dementia for interview regarding their own diagnostic experience please call 020 7306 0813. We are also happy to put you in touch with researchers: Professor Murna Downs from the University of Bradford's Dementia Group and Dr. Steve Lliffe GP, from the Royal Free and University College London medical school.

The Alzheimer's Society is the UK's leading care and research charity for people with dementia and their carers.

Over 700,000 people in the UK have dementia. More than half have Alzheimer's disease. Dementia affects one in 20 people over the age of 65 and one in five over he age of 80.

For information and advice on Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, call the Alzheimer's Society national help line on 0845 300 0336.

Catherine Griffiths

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