Dementia diagnosis rates: nurses can make a difference

An accurate diagnosis leads to understanding and access to appropriate information, advice, support and symptom control for the person and their carers

Nurse assessing cognition of an older woman using a digital tablet in a care home
Picture: iStock

The national target of a 66.7% dementia diagnosis rate was set in 2015, rising to 68% by 2019. The effect of COVID-19 and increasing estimated prevalence saw the overall national dementia diagnosis rate decline to 62% of people aged 65 years and over in February 2023.

There have always been significant variations in recorded diagnosis rates across regions and even at individual GP practice level, which invariably leads to a postcode lottery in terms of receiving timely diagnosis and subsequent advice and support. The data also only include people aged 65 years and over, which excludes those living with young onset dementia.

However, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) (2018) guidelines recommend that all people with suspected dementia should receive timely diagnosis. Yet, the concept of timely itself is subjective and does not contextualise when the best possible time might be for an individual and/or their family.

Collective efforts can make a huge difference for people with dementia

Targets can sometimes feel relentless, unachievable and futile, and as individuals we can feel that we have no power to make a difference. However, if we work collectively to support those in our care to get an accurate diagnosis, we can make an incredible difference not just to diagnosis rates but also to the lives of those affected.

A lack of an accurate diagnosis does not stop the neurodegenerative process, nor does it prevent dementia affecting the needs of the person and their family. Instead, it prevents understanding and access to appropriate information, education, advice, support and symptom control for the person and their informal and professional carers.

As our feature, Dementia diagnosis in care homes: how to find undetected cases, identifies, even in the advanced stages a diagnosis can inform delivery of person-centred care and the ability to discuss anticipatory and advance care planning that can reduce the risk of negative outcomes such as unnecessary hospital admissions, suboptimal pain management and burdensome treatments at the end of life. So, let’s all do what we can to improve diagnosis rates, not to achieve targets but to improve the lives of those affected by dementia.

Have you tried RCNi Plus yet?

RCNi Plus offers unlimited access to RCNi Learning, Nursing Older People, Nursing Standard, our other specialist journals and RCNi Revalidation Portfolio to store your CPD for revalidation. Use the discount code TRIALPLUS to get it half price for three months. Click here for more details

Further information