A qualitative study of informal caregiver perceptions of the benefits of an early dementia diagnosis

Elyse Couch*, Melissa Co, Chris Albertyn, Matthew Prina, Vanessa Lawrence

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Background: Current and former dementia policies in the United Kingdom (UK) recommend diagnosing dementia early, or as close to the onset of symptoms as possible. Informal caregivers play an important role in initiating the diagnostic process and providing support to people living with dementia. Therefore, this study aimed to explore caregiver perceptions of the benefits of an early diagnosis. Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 12 current and former informal caregivers to people with dementia in the UK in 2020. We analysed the interviews using thematic analysis. Results: Benefits of an early diagnosis included: (1) protecting the person with dementia from financial or physical harm, (2) timely decision-making, and (3) access to services and treatments following a diagnosis. We identified three conditions necessary for the benefits of an early diagnosis to be felt: (1) adequate prognostic information, (2) someone to advocate on behalf of the person with dementia, and (3) a willingness to seek and accept the diagnosis. Conclusions: In this study, we identified how diagnosing dementia close to the onset of symptoms could be beneficial and the conditions necessary for these benefits to be felt. The findings highlight the importance of an early diagnosis for enabling people with dementia and caregivers to make practical arrangements and to access services. Further research is needed to build on the findings of this study by exploring the perspectives of people with dementia and by including a larger, more diverse sample of caregivers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number508
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Volume24
Issue number1
Early online date24 Apr 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Apr 2024

Keywords

  • Caregivers
  • Dementia
  • Early diagnosis
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Qualitative research

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