Public education about normal forgetfulness and dementia: effectiveness of a systematically developed information brochure

Kees Commissaris*, Rudolf Ponds, Frans Verhey, Jelle Jolles, Vic Damoiseaux, Gerjo Kok

*Corresponding author for this work

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Earlier research revealed that many elderly people in The Netherlands are worried about their forgetfulness and are afraid of incipient dementia. Until now, no systematic research has been conducted on the effects of public education about normal forgetfulness and dementia, and therefore an, information brochure was developed and evaluated. The main function of this brochure was to reassure people who were unnecessarily worrying about possible dementia. A second function was to motivate people to seek professional help when. this seemed advisable. Sixty-two percent of all respondents (307 of 400) who had been worried about dementia before reading the brochure said that their anxiety decreased or disappeared after reading it; approximately 3% became more worried after reading the brochure. A cognitive test battery was administered to 104 people to determine whether their increased or decreased anxiety was justified Thirty subjects had low test scores, yet 16 of these subjects had been reassured by the brochure that their forgetfulness was nothing to worry about. This group was characterized as experiencing fewer problems in daily life as a result of their forgetfulness and as having a higher internal locus of control. Seventy-four subjects performed well on the cognitive tests, yet 18 of then had remained worried: about their forgetfulness after reading the brochure. Anxiety for heredity of dementia could be a possible explanation for their persistent concern. Although many people were reassured by the brochure, the results also show that it is important to evaluate information brochures used as intervention instruments-in one third of the present sample, the effects of the brochure were not in accordance with its goal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-777
Number of pages15
JournalEducational Gerontology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1995


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