Tiffany W. Chow, MD, MSc, Baycrest Health Sciences Rotman Research Institute, and Ross Memory Clinic; University of Toronto Depts. of Medicine (Neurology Division) and Psychiatry (Geriatric Psychiatry Division).
Much of the published clinical research in dementia has focused on diagnostic biomarkers and neuroimaging analyses that are not yet validated for routine clinical practice or on unsuccessful clinical drug trials. Primary care providers can nonetheless make a significant difference in the management of patients with dementia and their families, based on appropriate referrals of non-Alzheimer's dementia cases to specialists and supporting informal caregivers.
Frontotemporal degeneration, a non-Alzheimer's dementia that strikes in the 6th decade of life, provides many opportunities for the entire healthcare team to educate and back families up through a harrowing neurodegenerative illness. This paper is intended to highlight for primary care physicians what can be done and how to accomplish it through a team approach. Some concepts, such as a switch from medicalized views of "behavioural and psychiatric symptoms of dementia" to "Responsive Behaviours" can be generalized across dementia etiologies, but the age at onset and marked social disability and dysfunction caused by frontotemporal degeneration warrant some additional guidelines to assure the safety and highest quality of life possible for the patient and those around him. In particular, refitting a day program to accommodate clients with frontotemporal degeneration and attending to the needs of children who find themselves in informal caregiver roles are addressed.
Keywords: caregiver, dementia, frontotemporal dementia, primary progressive aphasia.