A University of Newcastle dementia expert has been granted close to $800,000 for Australia's largest project aimed at improving general practitioners' diagnosis and management of patients with dementia.
Professor Dimity Pond from the University's Priority Research Centre for Gender, Health and Ageing will map the management of dementia by GPs over a two year period.
The research will be used to develop new or improved methods of screening and diagnosing dementia.
"The number of people suffering from dementia in Australia will double by 2020," Professor Pond said.
"General practitioners are vital in the diagnosis and management of patients with dementia as many elderly people visit their doctor regularly.
"However, studies show that GPs fail to identify more than half of early stage dementia cases, so there is clearly a need to improve doctor's ability to diagnose dementia early and begin the management process."
Studies have already found that the benefits of early diagnosis include recognition and management of reversible causes and allowing patients time to plan for their future while they are still able to do so.
Peer support and education for patients and their families may also be provided if diagnosis is made earlier.
The new research - Australia's largest project focussing on GP diagnosis - will provide a range of new data on which to base future dementia programs, and assist in he development of future policy and practice.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant builds on Professor Pond's previous research looking at GP assistance for the primary carers of people with dementia.
Professor Pond will lead a team of researchers from the University of Newcastle, the University of New South Wales, the University of Adelaide, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the University of Melbourne.
The University's Priority Research Centre for Gender, Health and Ageing conducts research in collaboration with the Hunter Medical Research Institute's (HMRI) Public Health Program.
Professor Pond is available for interview today, Monday 10 March, by phone.