Dementia in a regional hospital setting: contextual challenges and barriers to effective care

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Michael J. Annear
Peter Lucas

Abstract

Dementia is a growing public health problem, which may be under-recognised and poorly managed in regional hospitals. With projections of increasing dementia among older adults in regional and rural areas, knowledge about dementia and capacity of professionals to provide best-evidence care is paramount. This research investigates the challenges of dementia care in a publicly funded regional hospital in Australia. The study elucidates prevalence of dementia-related admissions, costs of treatment, length of stay and capacity for dementia care. A mixed methodology was employed in this study, including analysis of hospital records (N = 2405), dementia knowledge surveys (n = 50) and semi-structured interviews with clinical staff (n = 13). Hospital records showed that dementia-related admissions were lower than population prevalence reported in regional Australia. Dementia patients, however, attracted significantly higher treatment costs and greater length of stay than age-matched admissions who did not have a diagnosis of dementia. Clinicians reported several obstacles to effective dementia care, including staff knowledge deficits, environmental challenges, resource constraints and organisational factors.

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