Behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia in primary care: a survey of general practitioners in Ireland

Ment Health Fam Med. 2011 Dec;8(4):227-34.


Background Management of neuropsychiatric symptoms is a challenging task in primary care. Aims To assess self-reported confidence and knowledge of general practitioners (GPs) regarding the identification and management of behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD).Methods A self-designed two-page paper questionnaire was sent to a random sample of 160 GPs practising in north Dublin. They were asked to evaluate their confidence and knowledge on several aspects of diagnosis and management of BPSD.Results Completed questionnaires were returned from 109 GPs (response rate = 68%), of which 106 were usable. In general, GPs were somewhat critical of their self-reported skills in diagnosing (76.4%) and managing (77.4%) BPSD, as well as in discriminating BPSD from other behavioural disturbances (71.7%). Many of them (67.9%) also encountered difficulty accessing specialist services. There was no correlation between demographic characteristics of GPs or patient caseload with respect to their responses to questionnaire items. Although many GPs (92.5%) highly valued the important role of non-pharmacological interventions in BPSD, none of them reported recommending these in their daily practice.Conclusions Despite the fact that GPs have a wealth of knowledge about BPSD, they are largely critical of their knowledge and management skills of these symptoms. Efforts should be focused on supporting GPs by means of educational interventions that consider all aspects of dementia, but additionally highlight the more challenging neuropsychiatric components of the illness. Health services need to be structured in a way that promotes collaboration between GPs and mental health professionals for a seamless delivery of care.

Keywords: diagnosis; family medicine; general practitioner; health services; neuropsychiatric symptoms.