Dementia is a complex syndrome that poses challenges for the person with dementia,
their family, and health and social care professionals. Primary care is often the first
point of contact for people with dementia (Briggs & Askham, 1999), and primary
care practitioners are recognised as having an integral role to play in the diagnosis
and management of dementia (Downs, 1996). Around 70 per cent of people with
dementia living in the community live with their carer. Most informal carers are the
spouse or daughter of the person with dementia (Alzheimer's Scotland, 2000).
Previous research has shown that caring for people with dementia can be stressful,
although it also has many positive aspects, and that carers need support systems in
place for themselves and their relative.
The aim of the current study was to explore the first reported signs of dementia by
two groups known to be closely involved with individuals within the earlier stages of
the condition, carers and primary care practitioners. Previously unanalysed data
collected from carers and practitioners who participated in the Downs et al (2003)
study "Improving the response of primary care practitioners to people with dementia
and their families: A randomised controlled trial of educational interventions" was
A grounded theory approach (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) was adopted to explore the
first signs of dementia reported by 122 carers and 204 primary care practitioners.
Five main categories and thirty-two subcategories related to cognitive, emotional,
behavioural, physical and other (non-categorised) signs of dementia were generated.
Statistical analysis was carried out to explore the effect of sociodemographic and
occupational variables on the first signs of dementia reported by carers and
practitioners, and the effect oftraining on practitioner signs reported.
Findings were discussed and implications for clinical practice and future research