Help-seeking Response to Subjective Memory Complaints in Older Adults: Toward a Conceptual Model

Aysha Begum*, Rob Whitley, Sube Banerjee, David Matthews, Robert Stewart, Craig Morgan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Subjective memory complaint is a term used to refer older adults who report memory problems. Extensive literature exists on its etiology and impact on long-term cognitive decline, and some physicians consider it important in the early detection of dementia. Despite the salient features reported by both patients and clinicians, few people seek formal help for this complaint, and little research has investigated the underlying reasons for this. The current study explored beliefs, attitudes, and help-seeking behaviors. Design and Methods: A qualitative study was carried out comprising of 18 face-to-face in-depth interviews. The primary aim was to compare and contrast experiences between people, who sought formal help (n = 9), recruited from a memory service and those who did not seek formal help (n = 9) recruited from a screened community population. Results: The need for both to describe the experiences of an unexplored group and to develop a conceptual help-seeking model prompted the use of thematic framework analysis. Three themes were identified as facilitators and barriers to formal health service use: (a) concern, (b) causation, and (c) perceptions of general practitioner. We identified two further key areas central to shaping help-seeking responses: (a) informal help seeking and (b) alternative pathways to care. Implications: These findings suggest that there is a potential for modifying beliefs and attitudes towards help seeking and can inform the development of services and policy to facilitate help seeking and target and provide improved care or treatment when formal help is sought.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)462-473
Number of pages12
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


  • Qualitative methods
  • Primary care
  • Acknowledged-BRC
  • Acknowledged-BRC-13/14


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