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How Much a Dementia Patient Needs to Know

Even before my own medical education, I learned an essential truth about doctoring from my parents, both physicians: that being a physician involves much more than handing out diagnoses and treatment; it involves playing a role in some of the most intimate decisions of a patient’s life. This requires a considerable amount of human delicacy and judgment, no less than medical judgment and knowledge. If there is a serious, perhaps life-threatening or life-altering condition, what should one tell the patient, and when? How should one tell the patient? Should one tell the patient? Every situation is unique, but, for the most part, patients want to know the truth, however dire it is. They want to hear it delivered with tact, though, and with a sense, if not of hope, then at least of how such life as they have left can be lived in the most dignified, fulfilling way.

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