Diagnosis and management of dementia in primary care at an early stage: The need for a new concept and an adapted procedure

Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 20 (3):213-226 (1999)
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Diagnosis of dementia in primary care is both difficult and important. The recommendations by several authors to improve the diagnosis of dementia by general practitioners are important, but insufficient. It is argued that perhaps the disease concept in itself is a cause of confusion for clinicians. Primary care physicians need an adapted procedure, gradually leading to the final diagnosis of dementia. It has to be a stepwise labelling strategy, using global descriptions and non-disease specific labels in the beginning, ending up with well-defined disease criteria. In this process, there is circularity: previous diagnoses have to be kept in mind because symptoms and signs may gradually change during the progression of the disease, leading to reconsideration of previous deleted options. To frame this properly, the primary care physician needs to adopt a broad frail elderly geriatric concept. Implementation of this concept not only helps the diagnostic process, but also stimulates the care for dementing patients and their caregivers. Relevant arguments for early diagnostic involvement of primary care physicians can be put forward on condition that a new concept, adapted procedures and adapted instruments are used.



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