September. 25,2000 — Alzheimer’s is called a journey, but apparently no one chooses to go. Because of the slowly debilitating nature of the disease, it is often the caregiver who must guide the patient through a confusing and often sad maze of search. Many caregivers turn to family doctors, but are these doctors really the best people to diagnose and treat illnesses?
Not always, according to a small study presented at the American Academy of Family Physicians’ 52nd Annual Scientific Congress in Dallas.
“What’s most surprising about our study is that almost 50% of dementia cases are not diagnosed by a primary care physician,” study Author Gerald D. Karetnick, BA, tells WebMD. “We also found that it took primary caregivers an average of nine months to bring patients to their doctor for their initial visit – and from that point, it took another three years before Alzheimer’s was actually diagnosed. .” Karetnick, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Medicine and Dentistry, wholesales cheap sweatshirts at the College of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford.
To determine the ability of family physicians to identify, assess and diagnose dementia, researchers surveyed 55 Alzheimer’s Caregivers of patients with Haimer disease, learn about their experiences with primary care physicians.
Nursing staff responses show that slightly more than half of primary care physicians conduct tests for dementia symptoms and only a quarter for mental status examinations, and less than half referred patients to specialists for further evaluation. Less than a quarter of carers were told about community services and less than half were asked about the stress they were experiencing.
Are doctors facing a lack of time or a need for further education on the diseases that are causing them to miss? Researchers aren’t sure, but according to Dr. Bill Thies, vice president of medical and scientific affairs at the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago, complete communication is key to managing the disease.
“If you have concerns about family members, you should communicate those concerns in a clear and emphasized manner their doctor,” Thies tells WebMD. Many doctors are aware of treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, he said. “While these [treatments] do not cure symptoms, they may help slow the progression of the disease.”
Philip D. Sloane, MD, MPH, tells WebMD that his own research on Alzheimer’s disease shows that many family physicians, unless they regularly care for nursing home patients, simply don’t see much of the disease in their day-to-day practice.
“Alzheimer’s management is becoming increasingly complex, so some [doctors] may not be familiar with the nuances of care, Especially the management of behavioral issues and the use of community resources,” Sloan said. “However, I doubt most patients will receive good personal care from their family physician.” Sloane is the Elizabeth and Oscar Goodwin Distinguished Professor of Family Medicine and the Cecil G. Sheps Health Services Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Co-Director of the Aging, Disability and Long-Term Care Program.
Although theories vary about how best to diagnose and manage a disease that affects more than 12 million people worldwide, Karetnick says his The research presents a common goal: the need to better understand Alzheimer’s and those affected by it.