Guidelines For Communicating a Diagnosis of Dementia

• Ensure that the setting is quiet and without competing noise and distractions 

• Ensure that someone is available to support the person after being told about the diagnosis

• Speak slowly, clearly and directly to the person

• Give one message at a time

• Allow time for the person to absorb the information and to form questions.

  Information may need to be added later

• Written information about dementia can be helpful to take away and provides a helpful reference. Alzheimer’s Australia has information specifically for people with dementia.

Contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500

What information to share

As a general guide a number of things need to be explained. These include:

• An explanation as to why the symptoms are occurring

• A discussion of the particular form of dementia, in terms that are appropriate to the person’s level of understanding

• Any possible treatment for symptoms

• The specialised services and support programs that are available for people with dementia

Informing a person that they have dementia is a serious matter, which needs to be handled with great sensitivity, calmness and dignity. It can be a very stressful time for everyone. Don’t forget to look after carers, and yourself! Alzheimer’s Australia offers confidential counselling and support for families, carers and people with dementia.

Contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.

Based on:

The right to know? Sharing the diagnosis of dementia, by K Fearnley and D Weeks, and Communicating the diagnosis, Alzheimer’s Society, Canada

Iliffe S et al. 2009. Primary care and dementia: 1. diagnosis, screeningand disclosure.   International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry; 24: 895–901.