Alternative Ways to Describe an Alzheimer's Diagnosis

Should someone with Alzheimer's disease be told of the diagnosis? A doctor is ethically obligated to share the results of findings with the patient. And knowing the truth allows the person to be an active participant in future planning. Some affected people, however, seem to refuse to hear (or fail to remember) such diagnoses. For them, the truth may be too dispiriting.

In such cases, what can you try instead? Choose a way to describe the disease that you're both comfortable with:

  • possible or probable Alzheimer's

  • a memory disorder

  • a progressive brain disorder

  • cognitive impairment

  • progressive dementia

Any alternative description rooted in fact is useful when it makes clear -- to you, to your loved one, and to family and friends -- that there's a physical disorder that's responsible for the behavior changes, and the person isn't to blame.


Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio