Practical guidelines for the recognition and diagnosis of dementia

J Am Board Fam Med. 2012 May-Jun;25(3):367-82. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2012.03.100181.


To date, user-friendly, practical guidelines for dementia have not been available for busy family physicians. However, the growing number of patients with dementia means that primary care physicians will have an increasingly important role in the diagnosis and subsequent management of dementia. This article provides practical guidance for the recognition and diagnosis of dementia and is aimed at family physicians, who are usually the first clinicians to whom patients present with dementia symptoms. Because Alzheimer disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, this condition is the main focus of this article. We review the pathophysiology of AD and discuss recommended diagnostic protocols and the importance of early diagnosis. An AD diagnostic algorithm is provided, with clearly defined steps for screening and diagnosing AD and assessing daily functioning, behavioral symptoms, and caregiver status.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Dementia / diagnosis*
  • Dementia / pathology
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Psychometrics
  • Time Factors
  • United States