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Supporting People with Dementia From the Point of Diagnosis

Participants consider advantages and disadvantages of earlier diagnosis and its net worth

Albert Mulley co-chairing a panel on the advantages and disadvantages of earlier diagnosis

Albert Mulley co-chairing a panel on the advantages and disadvantages of earlier diagnosis

“Earlier diagnosis is not optional; it is a human right.” This was one argument put forward during a late morning discussion on the second day of Changing Minds: Innovations in Dementia Care and Dementia-Friendly Communities.

Session co-chair Albert Mulley invited participants to share their views on the advantages and disadvantages of earlier diagnosis and the net value it would bring in different contexts.

Participants also considered how families and supporters could be better assisted after diagnosis in planning and shared decision making for the future.

Mulley, managing director for global health care delivery science at The Dartmouth Institute, suggested earlier diagnosis provided the potential to identify populations at risk. One participant, who lives with dementia, said a timely diagnosis did allow him to explain his irregular behavior, but it
was more important to him to have the correct diagnosis.

One participant indicated diagnosis as a concept hadn’t been examined enough, arguing, “We say diagnosis, but we mean prognosis. We want to know what happens in the future.”

A timely diagnosis could serve both a social and medical function, participants heard. It enables people to explain how they’re feeling and allows their peers to understand what they’re going through.

If someone receives a timely diagnosis, they are able to access the best kind of support: that of their peers. One participant said, “How can you have access to peer support if you don’t know who your peers are in the first place?”

An early diagnosis does not come without its downsides, however, as the group soon learned.

One participant argued moving up the time of diagnosis allows people to be able to control further aspects of life, as well as giving more peace of mind. He added, “On the other hand, earlier diagnosis has the chance of increasing stigma.”

Participants were also reminded to err on the side of caution when scanning for certain diseases before they became medically apparent. One participant warned it was more likely non-progressive diseases would be found.

The downside of an early diagnosis, and the potential of misdiagnosis that comes with it, could be the risk of the patient developing mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression. If a timely diagnosis is to be made, it is important to ensure the structure of both public and private health systems are renewed.

While highlighting an area of the Pacific Islands that only has access to two dementia specialists, a participant used this as an example to argue how important it was to develop tools that allow timely diagnosis regardless of context and location.


The session, Changing Minds: Innovations in Dementia Care and Dementia-Friendly Communities, is part of Salzburg Global Seminar multi-year series Health and Health Care Innovation in the 21st Century. This year’s session is held in partnership with The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice and The Mayo Clinic. To keep up to date with the conversations taking place during the session, follow #SGShealth on Twitter and Instagram.

30.11.2017 Category: HEALTH, SALZBURG IN THE WORLD, SALZBURG UPDATES
Salzburg Global Seminar