More than 80 percent of people surveyed say they want to be informed if they are someday diagnosed with dementia, according to the National Institute for Longevity Sciences.
In Japan, opinions have been split over whether to inform patients if they are growing senile because there are currently no established cures. The findings are likely to contribute to the ongoing debate.
The outcome of the survey, led by Yumiko Arai, head of a research unit at the institute, was presented at a meeting Friday of the Japanese Psychogeriatric Society in Tokyo.
Conducted in 2004, the survey covered 2,012 people in their 20s to 70s.
Eighty-one percent of the respondents said they want to be informed if diagnosed with dementia, while 19 percent said they do not.
While there was little difference between gender in the answers, 85 percent of respondents in their 20s and 89 percent of those in their 30s said they want to be informed, while 69 percent of the people in their 70s said they did not.
Among those who would want to be informed, 83 percent said they would prefer to hear the diagnosis from doctors and 17 percent from their families.
Asked “how they are likely to feel if diagnosed” with dementia, many expressed concern over the impact on spouses and children, such as the physical and financial burden in nursing care, in addition to psychological anxiety.
People who said they would be scared it would “destroy their current lifestyle” or they “would be too shocked to think” were more likely to say they did not want to hear about the diagnosis.
Meanwhile, a study by a different researcher found that only half of doctors notify patients of a dementia diagnosis on the grounds there is no established system providing psychological care.
Arai said there are “no small number of cases” in which patients are not aware of the problem even after experiencing forgetfulness and other symptoms, but early treatment can delay the progression of dementia.
“It is necessary to deepen the debate on informing patients, including offering support to their families,” Arai said.
Mitsuru Ikenaga, director of Patient’s Rights Ombudsman Japan, said it is important to inform patients of a diagnosis and treatment options as soon as possible.
Ikenaga said there are instances in which symptoms improved after patients became fully aware of the fact that they have dementia.
Dementia is “not different from other diseases in a sense that correct information will help patients summon their strength to confront the disease,” Ikenaga said.
“Medical professionals should realize that it’s the patients, not doctors, who play a central role in fighting the disease.”
Dementia denotes a group of symptoms that may accompany certain diseases or conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease or cerebral vascular accidents that dull or destroy intellectual functions, such as memory, concentration and judgment.
There is no fundamental cure for dementia, but the progression of symptoms can be delayed through drugs.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry expects the number of people with dementia requiring nursing care will swell 1.5-fold to 2.5 million in 2015.
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