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Physicians writing off "demented" patients too soon.

Physicians Writing Off "Demented" Patients Too Soon

Careless labelling of an elderly patient as "demented" can send the patient on a downward spiral ending up as a self-fulfilling prophecy, Rosemary Lubinski, Ed.D., noted. She is an associate professor in the department of communicative disorders and sciences at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

This "learned helplessness" can be avoided, she emphasizes, if physicians take pains to document their diagnosis of dementia more carefully.

"Once a patient is so labelled, it becomes permanent," Dr. Lubinski complains. "I have never seen someone become `undemented.'"

If the labelling is inaccurate, patients can come to see themselves as more incompetent than they really are, and be treated by health care providers as such," she noted. "This can lead to lethal consequences."

Dr. Lubinski also lamented the fact that half of all patients diagnosed as demented and admitted to long-term care die within one year. They become victims of "learned helplessness," leading to a social breakdown syndrome.

Dr. Lubinski offered several suggestions for avoiding such cases of misdiagnosis. She urged mandatory examination of hearing and vision, avoidance of treating elderly patients as demented only because of age alone. She also advises encouraging patients to live "normal" lives, with an emphasis on independent living and social involvement.
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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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