Dementia: breaking the 'bad news' – a guide for psychiatrists

by Dr Emma Cunningham and Dr Mark Macauley


Published: April 2020


'Bad news' is information that adversely affects an individual. It is a largely subjective concept; what one person considers to be very bad news may be easier to accept for another, and a 'bad news' diagnosis will affect different people in different ways.


The process of breaking bad news is a frequent task for doctors working in all specialities of medicine, and breaking bad news well is an essential but complex skill that professionals should continually seek to develop during their careers. This module aims to explore the process of breaking the 'bad news' in relation to dementia, but will also detail ways in which the experience of having any difficult conversation can be enhanced for the professional and the patient.


Breaking bad news is not unique to old age psychiatry. Indeed, giving a patient a diagnosis of any kind can be regarded as being bad news. With this in mind, the information provided in this module can be adapted to all aspects of psychiatry and will hopefully encourage professionals to reassess and develop their skills in this area.


Start the module


If you like this module, you may also be interested in:

Frontotemporal dementia by Elke Henson and Dr George El-Nimr


Inappropriate sexual behaviour in dementia by Dr Ankush Singhal and Dr Rahul Tomar


Young onset dementias by Dr Aijaz Ahmed et al


How patient-centred are you? Shared decision-making in psychiatric practice by Dr Robert Chaplin and Dr Alan Quirk



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