This study aims to reconsider diagnostic approaches to dementia where pharmacological approaches are not available to reverse the pathological changes caused by dementia.
A questionnaire survey was conducted with 524 physicians specialising in dementia management in Aichi, Japan, with 163 (31.1%) valid responses. The survey gathered information on the perceived merits and demerits of the early diagnosis of dementia and the priorities in treating those with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), mild dementia, and moderate or advanced dementia. In the interview survey, 27 outpatients with mild Alzheimer’s disease (76.2 ± 7.6 years old; Mini-Mental State Examination score 23.3 ± 2.7 points; 21 women, six men) and 24 family members (12 spouses, 12 children) were asked about their priorities in treatment.
A total of 61.3% of physicians answered that persons with dementia having more time to accept the diagnosis is a merit of early diagnosis, while 61.3% answered that the possibility of causing anxiety was a demerit. Around 45% of the physicians chose the option ‘maintaining cognitive function’ as the first priority in cases of MCI and mild dementia, while 39.3% considered it the last priority in moderate or advanced cases. About 22.2% of persons with dementia and 37.5% of their families assigned the highest priority to ‘maintaining cognitive function’, whereas 37.0% of persons with dementia prioritised ‘maintaining quality of life for them and their families’.
Although it is important to build therapeutic alliances among persons with dementia, their families, and physicians by sharing a common perspective for better treatment of dementia, this study suggested that the three parties do not always share the same vision. Future research is needed to determine how to build therapeutic alliances for better approaches to dementia, especially to ensure that timely diagnosis is beneficial for persons with dementia and their families.

© 2021 Japanese Psychogeriatric Society.
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