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Practical Diagnosis and Management of Dementia Due to Alzheimer’s Disease in the Primary Care Setting: An Evidence-Based Approach

David S. Geldmacher, MD, FACP, and Diana R. Kerwin, MD

Published: August 29, 2013

Article Abstract

Objective: To review evidence-based guidance on the primary care of Alzheimer’s disease and clinical research on models of primary care for Alzheimer’s disease to present a practical summary for the primary care physician regarding the assessment and management of the disease.

Data Sources: References were obtained via PubMed search using keywords Alzheimer’s disease AND primary care OR collaborative care OR case finding OR caregivers OR guidelines. Articles were limited to English language from January 1, 1990, to January 1, 2013.

Study Selection: Articles were reviewed and selected on the basis of study quality and pertinence to this topic, covering a broad range of data and opinion across geographical regions and systems of care. The most recent published guidelines from major organizations were included.

Results: Practice guidelines contained numerous points of consensus, with most advocating a central role for the primary care physician in the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Review of the literature indicated that optimal medical and psychosocial care for people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers may be best facilitated through collaborative models of care involving the primary care physician working within a wider interdisciplinary team.

Conclusions: Evidence-based guidelines assign the primary care physician a critical role in the care of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Research on models of care suggests the need for an appropriate medical/nonmedical support network to fulfill this role. Given the diversity and breadth of services required and the necessity for close coordination, nationwide implementation of team-based, collaborative care programs may represent the best option for improving care standards for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2013;15(4):doi:10.4088/PCC.12r01474

Submitted: October 4, 2012; accepted April 23, 2013.

Published online: August 29, 2013.

Corresponding author: David S. Geldmacher, MD, Division of Memory Disorders and Behavioral Neurology, University of Alabama-Birmingham, 620 Sparks Center, 1720 7th Ave South, Birmingham, AL 35294 (

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