BACKGROUND: Alzheimer's disease (AD) dementia is a growing epidemic in the elderly population today. The challenge for every physician is to diagnose Alzheimers disease early to allow for the rapid initiation of symptomatic treatment, appropriate specialist referral to improve the quality of life for both the patient and caregiver.
OBJECTIVE: This study examines the beliefs and attitudes of primary care physicians in the Philippines regarding dementia particularly Alzheimer's.
METHODOLOGY: The study population consisted of general practitioners with or without family medicine or internal medicine residency training background, providing medical out-patient services in a primary care setting in 2 of the major cities of Metro Manila, Manila City and Quezon City. Organ specialists, psychiatrists and surgeons were not included in the study. The survey was conducted through a hand-delivered self-administered questionnaire.
RESULTS: Of the n=172 Metro Manila- based general practitioners who responded to the questionnaires, 64 percent expressed doubts in their ability in giving a diagnosis of dementia clinically. About 35 percent of the physicians believe that most forms of dementia are progressive and therefore "untreatable" and that AD is an expected part of aging. Half of the physician respondents believe that the cause of dementia cannot be established clinically with certainty. On the issue of disclosure, 56 percent of the Filipino primary care physicians prefer to disclose the diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease to patient and their families. Ninety two percent of the physicians will refer their patients for accurate diagnosis and specialized treatment to specialists in neurology, psychiatry and geriatrics.
CONCLUSION: This study concludes that majority of General Practitioners are not so confident in diagnosing dementia. Most of the General Practitioners are well informed that not all forms of dementia are progressive and untreatable. However, a considerable number still believes that AD is common in the elderly and is an expected part of aging. Assistance in arriving at an accurate diagnosis and specialized treatment were the primary reasons for specialty referral.