Dementia Care Across a Tertiary Care Health System: What Exists Now and What Needs to Change

Amanda Leggett, Cathleen Connell, Leslie Dubin, Ruth Dunkle, Kenneth M. Langa, Donovan T. Maust, J. Scott Roberts, Beth Spencer, Helen C. Kales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objectives: This study explored the process of care for persons living with dementia (PLWDs) in various care settings across a tertiary care system and considers challenges and opportunities for change. Design: Aimed at quality improvement, qualitative interviews were conducted with key stakeholders in dementia care across geriatric outpatient clinics, medical and psychiatric emergency departments, and the main hospital in 2016. Setting and participants: Forty-nine interactive interviews were conducted with a purposive and snowball sampling of health care professionals (physicians, nurses, social workers, administrators) and families in a large, academic health care system. Measures: Qualitative interview guides were developed by the study team to assess the process of care for PLWDs and strengths and challenges to delivering that care. Results: Key themes emerging from the interviews in each care setting are presented. The outpatient setting offers expertise, a multidisciplinary clinic, and research opportunities, but needs to respond to long waitlists, space limitations, and lack of consensus about who owns dementia care. The emergency department offers a low nurse/patient ratio and expertise in acute medical problems, but experiences competing demands and staff turnover; additionally, dementia does not appear on medical records, which can impede care. The hospital offers consultative services and resources, yet the physical space is confined and chaotic; sitters and antipsychotics can be overused, and placement outside of the hospital for PLWDs can be a challenge. Conclusions and implications: Five key recommendations are provided to help health systems proactively prepare for the coming boom of PLWD and their caregivers, including outpatient education, a dementia care management program to link services, Internet-based training for providers, and repurposing sitters as Elder Life specialists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1307-1312.e1
JournalJournal of the American Medical Directors Association
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Dementia care
  • emergency department
  • health system
  • inpatient
  • outpatient

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Health Policy
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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