Issues in aging

October 2010

FocusIssues in aging

Early dementia

Optimal management in general practice

Volume 39, No.10, October 2010 Pages 722-726

Barbara Workman

Fiona Dickson

Sally Green

Background

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.

Objective/s

This article discusses the role of the GP in the diagnosis and management of people with dementia.

Discussion

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 dementia.

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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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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