Physiotherapists’ knowledge about dementia

Ms Patricia  Maggs1, Ms  Jacqui Kay1, Ms Tina Ovaskainen1

1Melbourne Health, Parkville, Australia

 

AIM: To identify and rectify knowledge gaps that exist about dementia amongst physiotherapists working in a major metropolitan hospital.

METHOD: A cross-sectional survey of 50 acute & subacute physiotherapists working within a major metropolitan hospital was completed using The Dementia Knowledge Assessment Tool version 2.  Following collation of results a 45 minute dementia education session was provided by Senior Aged Care physiotherapists and 42 staff were re-surveyed.

RESULTS:

Pre-education: 100% (N=50) of physiotherapists were aware that dementia occurs because of brain changes, 94%(N=47) recognised that these changes are often progressive, 96% (N= 48) were aware that exercise can be beneficial in this patient population.

Physiotherapists demonstrated limited knowledge around dementia limiting life expectancy (58%, N=29); and in late stages of dementia, swallowing difficulties may be present (66%, N=33), movement is limited (72%, N= 36) and it is possible to establish presence of pain 76% (N=38).

Post-education: Physiotherapists demonstrated improvement in knowledge around dementia limiting life expectancy (98%, N=41); and in late stages of dementia, swallowing difficulties may be present (81% N=34), movement is limited (88%, N=37) and it is possible to establish presence of pain (83%, N=35).

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FINDINGS TO ALLIED HEALTH: There are key knowledge gaps within physiotherapy regarding dementia, but these can be addressed through targeted education.

Physiotherapists’ lack of knowledge regarding dementia may have implications for clinical decision making and may be associated with adverse outcomes and costly futile interventions. Further research is required to develop specific education to increase physiotherapists’ knowledge to ensure best practice care.