The Dementia Pathways Tool is an intuitive, online tool designed to assist GPs, practice nurses and allied health professionals with early intervention, diagnosis and ongoing management of patients with dementia. It offers a comprehensive web-based repository of dementia-related information, resources, and service directories, including local contact information, to support practitioners in their care of patients with dementia.
Unlike many other tools, the Dementia Pathways Tool is publically accessible, enabling the community access to relevant information about dementia including family and carer support, financial and legal issues, driving capabilities, powers of attorney.
The Dementia Pathways Tool was originally developed in 2013 for health practitioners in the Grampians region of Western Victoria. Interest in this Tool led to the development of a second, customised Dementia Pathways Tool for South Eastern Melbourne in early 2015, comprising the core content of the original tool but contextualised for the local region.
Both Tools were guided in their development by the Dementia Pathways Working group comprising partner organisations the Department of Health and Human Services (Grampians), Grampians Medicare Local and Federation University Australia's Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation (CeRDI) and Associate Professor Mark Yates, Ballarat Health Services and Deakin University. Advisory groups from the South Eastern Melbourne Medicare Local including the Aged Care Advisory Group contributed to the development of the South Eastern Melbourne Dementia Pathways Tool.
The content for the Dementia Pathways Tool was undertaken by Ms Carolyn Gargiulo, Grampians Region Department of Health and Human Services, as the lead organisation, in collaboration with Associate Professor Mark Yates, the Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service (CDAMS), Ballarat Health Services, and Deakin University.
Currently over 340,000 Australians have dementia with incidence rates expected to increase to over 900,000 by 2050 (Alzheimer's Australia, 2015). National disease data now identifies dementia and Alzheimer's disease as the second leading cause of death in Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS, 2015).
Dementia care in Australia is largely delivered by primary health care practitioners, with general practitioners (GPs) playing a key role in the early identification of symptoms, diagnosis in consultation with specialist support, and in ongoing patient care and management. However, detecting and diagnosing dementia is complicated and can lead to delays in diagnosis (see for eg., Alzheimer's Australia, 2014; Phillips, Pond & Goode, 2011). Community knowledge of dementia and ageing is also often filled with misconceptions and a lack of awareness, education and acceptance further preventing an early diagnosis.
Interviews and discussions undertaken during the initial consultation period for the Grampians Dementia Pathways Tool identified barriers exacerbating the complexity and adding to delays in diagnosis and support for local practitioners. The feedback highlighted that individuals with dementia and their carers, health professionals and service providers do not have a complete understanding of the available, regional services and localised pathway to support for primary health professionals with diagnosis, timely referral to specialist services and local support options, pre and post diagnosis.
The development of the Dementia Pathways Tool addresses some of these issues by providing primary health care staff with a web-based repository of information to support their current assessment and referral practices and allowing for a responsive and structured approach to initial concerns of cognitive decline.
The Dementia Pathways Working Group is committed to sharing and promoting this Tool. An important aim associated with the project has been the implementation of research to gauge the uptake and usage of the Tool by practitioners to thus inform current knowledge about new practices for dementia care. The publications and promotions page highlights these activities.
The first phase of research into the Dementia Pathways Tool has recently been conducted. Practitioners from the Grampians region were invited to participate in this research with the aim of gauging their perceptions and expectations of the Dementia Pathways Tool and to identify how it has assisted them with diagnosing, managing, and referring patients with dementia.
The findings from this are currently being analysed and a journal article will be prepared for publication, reporting on these findings.
Feedback on the Dementia Pathways Tool, its content and resources is encouraged. The Dementia Pathways Working Group also welcomes the opportunity to discuss new research opportunities and engagement with interested organisations.
Further information about the Dementia Pathways Tool can be obtained from:
HACC Diversity Advisor
Community Aged Care, Primary Health, Grampians Region
Department of Health & Human Services
T. 03 5333 6424
Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation
Federation University Australia
T. 03 5327 6021