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Why didn't I know? Perspectives from adult children of elderly parents with dementia

Authors


Abstract

Purpose

Approximately 27 million adults are living with undiagnosed dementia worldwide. The purpose of this study was to learn about the experiences of adult children of elderly parents who were ultimately diagnosed with dementia.

Data sources

A descriptive qualitative design was used for identifying if there were prodromal signs or symptoms that preceded the more commonly known warning signs of dementia. Twelve, 60-min interviews were conducted over the telephone.

Conclusions

The overarching theme was: “Why didn't I know?” Subthemes were “We ignored it because we didn't want it to be,” “We thought it was grief,” and “They wouldn't diagnose dementia.” Normal aging changes often mask the identification of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia. Healthcare providers should screen patients for dementia when cognitive concerns or changes become apparent.

Implications for practice

The General Practitioner Assessment of Cognition and the Mini-Cog can be used for screening cognitive changes. Since depression may be misinterpreted as dementia, screening for depression should also be included if there is a potential for overlap. This is important in those patients who are experiencing grief, as many signs and symptoms of early grief are the same as early dementia.

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