Calls for training in diagnosing dementia

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 September, 2011, 12:00am


Doctors need more training to improve their confidence in diagnosing and treating dementia, researchers say, after a survey found that less than one-third of medics were confident of diagnosing the disease, and 20 per cent preferred not to handle patients that have it.

The survey was released yesterday on World Alzheimer's Day by the Medical Association, the Alzheimer's Disease Association and Polytechnic University. They interviewed 414 doctors in December and January.

Only 30 per cent of respondents said they were confident about diagnosing dementia; 21.7 per cent were confident about handling patients with Alzheimer's.

Less than 10 per cent of the respondents have a diploma in geriatric medicine, while 13.5 per cent have received other specialised training related to dementia care, and they are more willing and confident about treating these patients, the survey found. Of those who preferred not to handle such patients, most said it was due to a lack of confidence and time. They also believed that dementia was better managed by specialists.

Dr Jimmy Wu Yee-ming, chairman of the Alzheimer's Disease Association, said most family doctors should be able to screen and diagnose patients with dementia with a high degree of accuracy, but more training could boost their confidence and equip them with up-to-date information. 'Not all doctors are interested in the area, but we would like to see more receive training,' Wu said.

'With the ageing population, the number of people with the condition will multiply, and we need doctors who know dementia well enough in every district in the future.'

Wu cited the association's figures from 2006 - that only 11 per cent of patients with dementia in Hong Kong were diagnosed and treated, close to the average of 10 per cent in poorer, developing countries.

Some elderly Hongkongers were left untreated because their families believed they were merely showing the symptoms of old age, he said. But Wu said he had seen improvements in recent years, with families increasingly taking their older members to doctors at an earlier stage.