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Care pathways for dementia: current perspectives

Authors Samsi K, Manthorpe J

Received 4 July 2014

Accepted for publication 29 July 2014

Published 27 November 2014 Volume 2014:9 Pages 2055—2063

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S70628

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Walker

Kritika Samsi, Jill Manthorpe

Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London, London, UK

Abstract: Uncertainty appears to typify the experience of living with dementia. With an uncertain illness trajectory and unpredictable levels of deterioration and stability in symptoms, people with a diagnosis of dementia may live with uncertainty and anxiety and find it hard to make plans or decisions for their future. People with memory problems and caregivers seeking a diagnosis of dementia may also potentially find themselves navigating a labyrinth-like maze of services, practitioners, assessments, and memory tests, with limited understanding of test scores and little information about what support is available. In this context of uncertainty, the apparent clarity and certainty of a “dementia care pathway” may be attractive. However, the term “dementia care pathway” has multiple and overlapping meanings, which can potentially give rise to further confusion if these are ill-defined or a false consensus is presumed. This review distinguishes four meanings: 1) a mechanism for the management and containment of uncertainty and confusion, useful for the professional as well as the person with dementia; 2) a manual for sequencing care activities; 3) a guide to consumers, indicating eligibility for care activities, or a guide to self-management for dementia dyads, indicating the appropriateness of care activities; and 4) a manual for “walking with” the person. Examples of these approaches are presented from UK dementia services with illustrations of existing care pathways and associated time points, specifically focusing on: 1) early symptom identification and first service encounters, 2) assessment process, 3) diagnostic disclosure, 4) postdiagnostic support, and 5) appropriate interventions. We review the evidence around these themes, as well as discuss service pathways and referral routes used by some services in England and internationally. We conclude that the attraction of the term “care pathway” is seductive, but caution is needed in taking shared understandings for granted.

Keywords: dementia, care pathways, diagnosis, assessment

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