Genio Dementia Series: No. 3 Briefing Paper on Dementia Diagnosis
Research team
Associate Prof Suzanne Cahill and Dr Maria Pierce, Trinity College Dublin

Genio Dementia Series: No. 3 Briefing Paper on Dementia Diagnosis

The paper explores the diagnosis of dementia; what the current practice is in Ireland; a description of common standardised instruments for cognitive assessment; an overview of practices in other parts of the world and based on the evidence presented, some actions for consideration. Drawing on the available research evidence, the paper identifies the following key actions for consideration in terms of the structures, systems and guidelines needed in Ireland to support the assessment and diagnosis of dementia.

  • The importance of the role of General Practitioners (GPs) was highlighted in the paper, along with the need for specialist training and support for same in diagnosing dementia.
  • Effective working will require enhanced interdisciplinary collaboration and partnerships between GPs, specialists and between community and hospital-based assessment and diagnostic services including Memory Clinics. 
  • Diagnostic pathways should be designed to ensure clear access for people with early-onset dementia and others who might require additional specialisms for diagnosis.
  • This review also points to the need to increase awareness of dementia and reduce stigma among the wider public and health and social care professionals. The development of educational and information resources such as dementia specific websites for health professionals may be helpful in this regard.
  • The growing numbers of people presenting with dementia in Ireland in the foreseeable future means that action is needed now to plan responsive assessment diagnostic and post-diagnostic services. 
  • This paper argues that immediate challenges, which must now be addressed, including timely diagnosis, sensitive communication of the diagnosis to the individual and family and mobilization of interventions and services to support the person to live well with dementia and enjoy a good quality of life. 
  • Achieving this will require systemic change and the reconfiguration of primary care services, closer collaboration between primary and specialist care services and the development of systematic referral and care pathways. 
Key Points
  • Diagnostic pathways should provide clear access for people with suspected dementia for diagnosis.
  • The predicted growth in the number of people with dementia requires planning for effective diagnostic and post-diagnostic services.
  • General Practitioners can play a piviotal role in the diagnosis pathway with specialist training and support in diagnosing dementia.
  • Effective working requires enhanced collaboration between GPs and specialists, as well as community and hospital-based services. 

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