Background: Timely recognition and diagnosis of dementia is the pre-condition for improving dementia care, but diagnosis often occurs late in the disease process.
Objective: To compare facilitators and obstacles to the timely recognition of dementia across eight European Union states, in order to implement established policies for earlier diagnosis.
Methods: A modified focus group technique, including a pre and posterior procedure.
Results: Twenty-three participants from different disciplines, purposively sampled for professional expertise in dementia research and innovative practice, attended two focus groups. Stigma in ageing and dementia, accompanied by a sense that there is little to offer until later on in the disease, underpinned the widespread reluctance of GPs to recognise dementia at an early stage and were major obstacles to the timely diagnosis of dementia across all eight countries. Dementia care services varied widely across Europe. Countries with the greatest development of dementia health care services were characterised by national guidelines, GPs fulfilling a gatekeeper function, multi-disciplinary memory clinics and innovative programmes that stimulated practice and new services. Dementia-related stigma was perceived as being less prominent in these countries.
Conclusions: Overcome of delays in the timely diagnosis of dementia needs more than specialist services. They should address the processes associated with stigma, age and dementia, especially where these relate to physician practice and diagnostic disclosure. Stigma is perceived as variable across European States, with a promising finding that its impact is relatively small in countries with the widest range of dementia care services.
Copyright 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.