Between 50% and 80% of dementia sufferers are not being diagnosed in primary care, a report claims.
According to the World Alzheimer Report 2011 by Alzheimer's Disease International, there is a false belief among primary care professionals that memory loss is a 'normal' part of ageing.
The report calls for earlier diagnosis and identification of dementia to improve the treatment, information and care given to sufferers.
Early diagnosis allows people more time to plan their lives after diagnosis, and to make important decisions about future treatment and care, argues the report.
"What is clear is that every country needs a national dementia strategy that promotes early diagnosis and a continuum of care thereafter," said Professor Martin Prince of the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, and the main author of the report.
"Primary care services, specialist diagnostic and treatment centres and community-based services all have a part to play, but to differing degrees depending upon resources."
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) released guidelines on dementia care in March 2011.
The health watchdog recommends that primary care staff should consider referring people who show signs of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) for assessment by memory assessment services.
The Department of Health yesterday (14 September) pledged to invest £10m in memory services in a bid to improve dementia services.
"While there is no cure for dementia, we know that early diagnosis and early intervention can help people take control of their condition and plan for the future," said Paul Burstow, Care Services Minister.
"With access to the right services and support, people with dementia can continue to live well for many years. Memory services have a really important role to play in this."
Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"When patients attend for flu jabs should be given a copy of the questions GPs fill out when assessing for dementia (don't know name) and ask them to hand it back in week after. This might highlight possible numbers then extra traing maybe given to staff if need in community. Or key questions can be asked at different visits, similar to how alcohol screening tools
work. depending on a score you can then identify maybe start of problems. This score documented and re-assessed at different times" - Diane Porterfield, Worcestershire
"I would totally agree with early diagnosis to allow patient and carer to plan and work out a solution for the quality of life.
Here's my story: it took me 18 months to get my husband referred to a memory clinic. Memory loss was seen as aging process. It was complicated by his heart condition and Parkinson's syndrome. GP ordered blood test which shown B12 deficiency so was put on B12 injection. I realized something wrong as far back as 2009 - anxiety, unreasoning, agitated.... I had to push GP for referring to specialist memory clinic. They discharged him after formal diagnosis as vascular dementia and Parkinson's. His anxiety exacerbated when I was diagnosed to have breast cancer last Oct. I requested my husband to be referred to a psychiatrist for CBT on advice of my own counselling session. I am now able to work with my husband as he now recognised own illness and accept help. As a former nurse and worked in H&S care all my life, it has been a long journey. What about the people who have no knowledge of care sector?" - Maria Gingell, London
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