Pathways to Care
No one person is responsible for diagnosing and ongoing support of people with dementia. Instead, the diagnosis and ongoing care can involve many health and social care professionals.
It is essential to know who these health and social care professionals are and how they may support you or your family member as each professional brings a unique professional dimension and skill to improve the care and the quality of life of the person with dementia.
Health & Social Care Professionals
General Practitioner, G.P
If you are concerned that you or someone you care for may be showing early signs of dementia, the first step is to make an appointment with the GP. The GP will look into the situation physically, psychologically and socially. Though the GP can make a diagnosis, they would usually refer you l to a specialist for further assessment.
If a referral to a specialist is needed, a letter will be provided outlining the history, findings of physical examination, and medical and social background. This may include essential non-medical information such as occupation, number of dependents, and carer support and will give the specialist an overview of the supports that may be required.
If a diagnosis is made, the GP will be advised of this by the specialist, and the GP will take over the ongoing management of you or your loved one’s care in the community. If a problem or difficulty arises, the GP will decide whether or not they can deal with it, and if not, refer you or your loved one back to the specialist.
Your local GP is key when you have been diagnosed with dementia. You can ask your GP about the type of dementia, changes that emerge and how you can manage symptoms. You can also talk to your GP about medication.
It is important to go for regular general health checks with your GP so they can monitor blood pressure, cholesterol and general health.
Public Health Nurse, PHN
A public health nurse works with people in their homes to help them to manage their condition. A public health nurse can help you access home support and respite services. Contact your local health centre or talk to your GP to make contact with your Public Health Nurse.
The following doctors specialise in diagnosing, treating and managing diagnosis of dementia. Your GP can refer you to one of these specialists.
A geriatrician is a doctor who specialises in medicine for older persons. In Ireland, that means people who are over 65 years old. A geriatrician is often involved in working with people with dementia to help to manage symptoms and talk about medications.
Psychiatrist of Later Life or Psychiatrist of Older Age
A Psychiatrist of Later Life/Psychiatrist of Older Age is a doctor who specialises in the mental health of people over 65. This doctor works with people with dementia who experience depression or who experience symptoms that affect their personality and behaviour. This doctor can help you to manage symptoms and work with you to develop strategies to cope with your diagnosis.
A psychiatrist is a doctor who specialises in diagnosing and treating a wide range of mental health problems, especially those of thinking and mood. Their assessment of a person can be constructive in those cases where severe depression may be causing symptoms similar to those of dementia, making diagnosis difficult. Persons under 65 may be referred to a psychiatrist.
A clinical psychologist is a person who assesses memory, learning ability and other mental functions. They will often carry out an interview in which they do a range of tests with you. These give a good indication of your mental abilities and difficulties. Psychologists:
- Support the management of behavioural and emotional changes.
- Identify other reasons for memory difficulties, such as delirium and depression.
- Provide education on diagnosis and therapeutic supports for people with dementia and their families. Provide memory-focused therapy such as reminiscence therapy.
A Neurologist is a doctor who specialises in conditions which affect the brain. If you are under 65 and have dementia, the Neurologist can help you to cope with the diagnosis and manage symptoms as they emerge.
The GP can refer a person to a Psychiatrist of Later Life, a neurologist or a Geriatrician, depending on your age and symptoms, to get specialist support.
Social workers work with individuals and their families to develop their full potential and well-being. Social workers:
- Support the person and family with the emotional impact of dementia.
- Provide information on dementia and coping strategies.
- Coordinate community services, including day centres, respite and meal services.
- Provide advice and information on social welfare and legal issues.
Occupational therapists support people in maintaining independence and participating in everyday activities. Occupational therapists:
- It can help with continuing to perform day-to-day tasks.
- Guide driving and work.
- Train in skills and strategies to enhance memory function.
- Advise on home adaptations and equipment to improve safety and functioning.
- Identify activities and local resources to promote well-being and social interaction.
Speech and Language Therapist
Speech and language therapists support people with communication and swallowing. Speech and language therapists:
- Help the person express their wishes and continue making decisions for themselves.
- Support communication skills to improve quality of life.
- Manage difficulties with eating, drinking and swallowing.
- Reduce the risk of chest infections.
Dietitians support people with nutrition and diet. They:
- Assess nutritional needs and the person’s diet.
- Can help manage weight, muscle or nutrient losses.
- Provide advice on overcoming challenges of altered dietary intake.
- Guide family members and carers to help a person with dementia enjoy mealtimes.
Physiotherapists support individuals to develop, maintain and restore movement and function. Physiotherapists:
- Support people to stay physically active
- Promote a healthy lifestyle to maximize the quality of life.
- Prevent falls and fractures.
- Manage pain.
- Reduce manual handling risk for carers.
Health Care Professional Resources
If you work with people with dementia and their families, you will find information about services, resources and publications that may interest you.
In this section, you can:
- find information about our services and where they are across the country.
- download our referral forms for daycare, home care, respite care, case management and drop-in services
- check out our family carer training programme
- view all ASI publications and research
- link to helpful organisations involved in dementia in Ireland
The Alzheimer Society of Ireland Care Services is committed to protecting your personal data. Please read our Data Protection – Fair Processing Notice.
The Alzheimer Society of Ireland Referral Forms
- Home Care Referral Form
- Day Care Referral Form
- The Orchard Care Centre
- Dublin Case Management Referral Form
- Drop-in Service Referral Form – Rose Cottage