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General practitioners’ experiences and understandings of diagnosing dementia: Factors impacting on early diagnosis


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Hansen, EC, Hughes, CJ, Routley, G and Robinson, AL 2008 , 'General practitioners’ experiences and understandings of diagnosing dementia: Factors impacting on early diagnosis' , Social Science and Medicine, vol. 67, no. 11 , pp. 1776-1783 , doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.09.020.

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This article reports findings from three linked qualitative research projects that explored how Australian general practitioners (GPs) spoke about their experiences in diagnosing dementia and their views on early diagnosis and barriers towards early diagnosis. The authors conducted this research with the aim of elucidating the GP perspective and using this to better understand the process of diagnosing dementia and delays in diagnosing dementia. Twenty-four GPs based in Australia participated in the study (eleven females and thirteen males). Six of these GPs worked in rural practices, eight in a large town and the remainder in urban practices in a capital city. The major themes in GPs' accounts of the diagnosis of dementia could be grouped under the headings of ‘recognizing dementia’, ‘holistic viewpoint’, ‘family members and patients’ and ‘medication’. Key findings are that dementia is a complex condition that takes time to diagnose. Diagnosis may involve conflict between GPs, family members/carers and the person with dementia (PWD). GPs did not consider that diagnosing dementia early was particularly important and may in fact be harmful to some patients. They are skeptical about the advantages of dementia medications. GPs assess the need for a formal diagnosis of dementia within the broader context of their older patients' lives. They are more likely to pursue a formal diagnosis in situations where they see it leading to benefits for their patient such as accessing dementia specific services. Increasing the availability of support services for PWD and educating GPs about the benefits of a formal diagnosis of dementia for stakeholders other than PWD, for example family members and carers may increase the likelihood that they will diagnose dementia early.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Hansen, EC and Hughes, CJ and Routley, G and Robinson, AL
Keywords: Australia; General practitioners (GP); Dementia; Diagnosis; Diagnostic process; Older people
Journal or Publication Title: Social Science and Medicine
ISSN: 0277-9536
DOI / ID Number: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.09.020
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