Explaining the effects of symptom attribution by carers on help-seeking for individuals living with dementia

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This study investigated the effects of carer attributions on help-seeking behaviour for people with dementia using interviews with 84 carers recruited through general practice. Memory loss was the most commonly reported first symptom but psychological and behavioural symptoms were also common at onset. In over a third of individuals help-seeking was delayed for a mean of 25 months (range 6–69, SD 19.3). Help-seeking between those who attributed symptoms to dementia, or to unknown causes, and those who attributed symptoms to personality, ageing, life events or other illnesses was statistically significant (p < 0.001). No statistically significant associations between help-seeking and patient or carer characteristics were found. There is a need to raise public awareness about the range of symptoms suggestive of dementia. Assumptions that age and other conditions may be the likely cause of an individual’s cognitive decline needs to be challenged by practitioners. Attribution of symptoms to characteristics other than dementia delays help-seeking.

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