The assessment and management of dementia is complex.
General practitioners are often the first point of contact
for people with dementia, and their families. General
practitioners have a key role in providing quality primary
care in terms of the identification, assessment, provision of
information, referral and ongoing management.
This article discusses the role of the GP in the diagnosis
and management of people with dementia.
It is important GPs are aware of the importance of early
detection of dementia. Dementia is a complex condition. It
develops slowly and early signs of dementia are very subtle.
Difficulty in detecting the transition between normal aging
and the onset of dementia and the lack of a definitive
diagnostic tool often precludes early diagnosis. Evidence
based recommendations are available to assist GPs in
the diagnosis and ongoing management of people with
The number of Australians with dementia is increasing. In 2009, 245 400 Australians were experiencing dementia, 60% were female and 88.5% were aged 70 years or more. The prevalence of dementia increases with age, doubling every 5 years between the ages of 60 and 85 years.1 'Mild' dementia is most prevalent (55%); while 30% can be classified as 'moderate' and 15% as 'severe'.1 A person with mild dementia may only experience one or two symptoms that have a relatively minor impact on day-to-day living, such as getting lost on a familiar route, having a reduced attention span or becoming repetitive in conversation. A person with moderate or severe dementia may experience many symptoms and require 24 hour care.1,2
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