Patient Safety | 09.10.21
New Ethics Standards for Docs Who Care for People With Dementia
The American Academy of Neurology's ethics committee recently updated its guidelines for caring for people with dementia and their families. The guidelines highlight the need for doctors to acknowledge patient autonomy and the key role played by family caregivers, as well as the need to balance independence and risk as they discuss care options. Neurologists are advised to communicate clearly and carefully with both patients and family members, taking the trouble to explain a diagnosis and address widespread misconceptions about these disorders. Physicians are also recommended not to withhold a diagnosis of dementia because they feel it would be harmful to a patient. Doctors are further urged to be very careful about ordering genetic testing for asymptomatic patients, and to not order any testing without clear permission. The new guidelines also remind physicians that many people with dementia are capable of making decisions about their healthcare, life goals, and finances, and outline a hierarchy of appropriate decision-making.