Dementia Diagnosis May Lead to Positive Outlook on Life

A new study finds that a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment or early dementia does not necessarily portend a dark prognosis.

Scientists from University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging asked 48 men and women with early dementia or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) a series of questions about their quality of life and personal outlook post-diagnosis.

The survey, called the Silver Lining Questionnaire (SLQ), was designed to measure the extent to which people believe their illness has had a positive benefit in certain key life areas.

Study participants responded that the diagnosis has improved personal relationships and fostered a greater appreciation for life.

Moreover, study members reported the diagnosis has helped to enhance their personal inner strength and helped to facilitate changes in life philosophy. They report the diagnosis has also been a positive influence on others.

The SLQ assessment instrument has been administered previously to patients with cancer diagnoses, but hasn’t been given to MCI/dementia patients, according to Gregory Jicha, M.D., Ph.D., a professor at the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging and the study’s lead author.

“The overall assumption is that this diagnosis would have a uniformly negative impact on a patient’s outlook on life, but we were surprised to find that almost half of respondents reported positive scores,” Jicha said.

Positive responses were even higher on certain scores, such as:

  • appreciation and acceptance of life;
  • less concern about failure;
  • self-reflection, tolerance of others, and courage to face problems in life;
  • strengthened relationships and new opportunities to meet people.

“The common stereotype for this type of diagnosis is depression, denial, and despair,” Jicha said. “However, this study, while small, suggests that positive changes in attitude are as common as negative ones.”

The next step, according to Jicha, is to explore the variables that affect outlook in these patients with an eye towards interventions that might help the other half find their “silver lining.”

Jicha presented the study data at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto.

Source: University of Kentucky/EurekAlert
Elderly woman watering plants photo by shutterstock.