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Telling someone they have dementia

Telling someone they have dementia

The way you tell someone they have dementia impacts on how they and their families accept, adjust and move forward with managing their diagnosis

The four most important things to bear in mind:

  • Communicate information. Provide verbally tailored information to the person, and provide a written summary.
  • Be compassionate. Validate feelings and reassure.
  • Convey hope. Suggest treatments including allied health, lifestyle modifications and how to get support. Emphasise diagnosis is the first step in managing dementia.
  • Ensure timely follow up. People with dementia and carers in shock may not remember the information they are told at diagnosis. Ensure they are given written information about their diagnosis and where follow-up will happen (e.g. return to your clinic, another specialist, their GP).

Watch this 2-minute video on how to give a diagnosis

Professor Henry Brodaty MBBS (Syd), MD (UNSW), DSc (UNSW), FRACP, FRANZCP, FAHMS).

Webinar: ReThinking a Dementia Diagnostic Interview

Watch the webinar with Professor Henry Brodaty. 


To do

  • Read the 2 page Checklist for communicating a diagnosis and care planning.
  • Print the Patient Information Resource. It contains key pieces of follow up information for people newly diagnosed with dementia including helpline contact numbers. Write personalised information onto this for your patients.
  • Scan the extensive information for People with Dementia and Carers on this website. The pages under each section are printable (see print icon at bottom of page).
  • Download Forward with Dementia promotional resources for your clinic including flyers and A4/A3 posters.

Learn more:

  • Comprehensive and practical advice on assessing capacity to understand the diagnosis and communicating with the person with dementia and care partner can be found in this Care Guide by Pond, D. (2019).
  • Further tips and advice on good communication and responding to emotional reactions can be found at DemTalk.
  • Watch another video example of an experienced clinician delivering the dementia diagnosis.

I was shocked when I left. Like numb. My thoughts weren’t going anywhere other than absolutely uncertainty.