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How do doctors deliver a diagnosis of dementia in memory clinics?

  • Jemima Dooley (a1), Nick Bass (a2) and Rose McCabe (a3)

Dementia diagnosis rates are increasing. Guidelines recommend that people with dementia should be told their diagnosis clearly and honestly to facilitate future planning.


To analyse how doctors deliver a dementia diagnosis in practice.


Conversation analysis was conducted on 81 video-recorded diagnosis feedback meetings with 20 doctors from nine UK memory clinics.


All doctors named dementia; 59% (n = 48) approached the diagnosis indirectly but delicately (‘this is dementia’) and 41% (n = 33) approached this directly but bluntly (‘you have Alzheimer's disease’). Direct approaches were used more often with people with lower cognitive test scores. Doctors emphasised that the dementia was mild and tended to downplay its progression, with some avoiding discussing prognosis altogether.


Doctors are naming dementia to patients. Direct approaches reflect attempts to ensure clear diagnosis. Downplaying and avoiding prognosis demonstrates concerns about preserving hope but may compromise understanding about and planning for the future.

Declaration of interest


Corresponding author
Correspondence: Jemima Dooley, 4.07, Canynge Hall, 39 Whatley Road, Bristol BS8 2PS, UK. Email:
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How do doctors deliver a diagnosis of dementia in memory clinics?

  • Jemima Dooley (a1), Nick Bass (a2) and Rose McCabe (a3)
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