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Dementia and immigrant groups: a qualitative study of challenges related to identifying, assessing, and diagnosing dementia

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BACKGROUND: Along with the ageing of the general population, Europe's migrant populations are also ageing, thus posing new challenges for dementia care services, particularly if the services are to be adjusted to persons with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. From the perspective of health professionals, this study aims to explore challenges involved in identifying, assessing and diagnosing people with cognitive impairment/dementia who have different linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

METHODS: Research on health professionals experiences regarding the management of dementia among immigrants is scarce and qualitative methods was used to address the objective of the study. Using qualitative in-depth interviews and focus-group discussions, we sought to gather participants' experiences regarding the diagnostic process for immigrants with dementia. The material was analysed and interpreted based on Kvale and Brinkmann's descriptions of three different contexts of interpretation: self-understanding, critical common-sense understanding, and theoretical understanding.

RESULTS: Health professionals described how families could attribute symptoms of dementia to processes of normal ageing, while others saw the symptoms as something shameful; both instances delayed or hindered help-seeking. Many clinicians had limited experience with older immigrants suffering from dementia, and general practitioners (GPs) in particular experienced difficulties assessing dementia due to language barriers and difficulties related to the involvement of the family or an interpreter. The findings illustrate challenges in assessment, such as unfamiliarity with test situations among those being assessed and lack of knowledge regarding appropriate diagnostic tools among health professionals. Lack of continuity and poor information exchange in the chain of care seem to reinforce many of these challenges.

CONCLUSIONS: Detection, treatment and care may be improved if primary care professionals strengthen their cross-cultural competences. Training in communication skills and in the use of cross-cultural assessment tools may help build competence and confidence when assessing and caring for people with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Closer collaboration among families, nurses in home-based services, dementia teams, and GPs may facilitate close monitoring of a patient over time. Such collaboration requires sufficient information exchange during transitions in the chain of care, continuity among health professionals, and a shared understanding of the goals for treatment and care.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Volume18
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)910
ISSN1472-6963
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2018

ID: 56121333