Background: The diagnosis of dementia in primary care is perceived as a problem across countries and systems, resulting in delayed recognition and adverse outcomes for patients and their carers. Improving its early detection is an area identified for development in the English National Dementia Strategy 2009; there are thought to be multiple benefits to the patient, family, and resources by doing this. The aim of this review was to carry out a rapid appraisal in order to inform the implementation of this policy.
Method: Publications in English up to August 2009 relating to barriers to the recognition of dementia, were identified by a broad search strategy, using electronic databases MEDLINE, EMBASE, and psycINFO. Exclusion criteria included non-English language, studies about pharmacological interventions or screening instruments, and settings without primary care.
Results: Eleven empirical studies were found: 3 quantitative, 6 qualitative, and 2 with mixed methodologies. The main themes from the qualitative studies were found to be lack of support, time constraints, financial constraints, stigma, diagnostic uncertainty, and disclosing the diagnosis. Quantitative studies yielded diverse results about knowledge, service support, time constraints, and confidence. The factors identified in qualitative and quantitative studies were grouped into 3 categories: patient factors, GP factors and system characteristics.
Conclusion: Much can still be done in the way of service development and provision, GP training and education, and the eradication of stigma attached to dementia, to improve the early detection and management of dementia. Implementation of dementia strategies should include attention to all three categories of barriers. Further research should focus on their interaction, using different methods from studies to date.