Objective: To find out what difficulties general practitioners (GPs) experience with diagnosing and managing dementia.
Design: Postal questionnaire to a random stratified sample of one in seven active Australian GPs (2182 of 14,932).
Results: 1473 GPs (67.5%) responded to the questionnaire. The results indicated reasonable knowledge about diagnostic features of dementia and good insight into common issues facing family carers. Even so, GPs had difficulties with diagnosis and management of dementia and wanted assessment protocols and educational programs. A minority of GPs regularly screened elderly patients for cognitive impairment but the majority relied on passive means of diagnosing dementia. Although generally positive about Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACATs) and Aged Care Community Services (ACCS), GPs expressed some concerns about these services.
Conclusions: Recommendations arising from the survey were: development of an assessment protocol and a screening instrument, regular cognitive check-ups for patients over 75 years, educational programs, improved coordination with Aged Care Assessment Teams and Community Services, inventories and registers of local community services and residential facilities, and appropriate Medicare rebates.