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Dementia diagnosis affects outlook on life

August 7, 2017
by Nicole Stempak, Senior Editor
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Researchers from Penn Medicine have found that older adults who were aware of their diagnosed cognitive impairment reported greater anxiety and depression, higher stress and lower quality of life than those who were unaware.

Earlier diagnosis and more self-awareness are at the crux of the dementia stigma, which can evoke assumptions, stereotypes, feelings and attitudes about how we see each other—and ourselves.  

“It’s not just an issue of to tell or not to tell, it’s an issue of how you tell and what you tell because when you give someone a diagnosis, you’re also communicating, either directly or indirectly, a lot of information that can affect the activities people do in daily life, their planning for employment and lifestyle, emotional well-being and social relationships with close friends and family members,” said lead study author Shana Stites, PsyD, MA, MS, a clinical psychologist at the Penn Memory Center and senior research investigator for the Penn Project on Precision Medicine for the Brain (P3MB) in a news release. “These issues need to be explicitly addressed with patients. Maybe at this point we can’t prevent cognitive decline, but we certainly have effective interventions for treating depression and managing other symptoms.”

They also found that seniors who believed their mild cognitive impairment or mild-stage Alzheimer’s disease would worsen over time self-reported lower overall satisfaction with daily life. Their findings were published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.

Researchers studied how awareness of memory loss affected self-assessments on quality of life compared to a group of adults age 65 and older with normal cognition.

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