To explore the attitudes of Irish and Swedish General Practitioners (GPs) to the diagnosis and disclosure of dementia to patients; to investigate GP under-graduate/post-graduate training in dementia; to examine the post-diagnostic support services available to GPs in both countries and to investigate the extent to which dementia is perceived as stigmatising.
A cross-national exploratory qualitative design was used. In-depth interviews were conducted with five Irish and four Swedish GPs. Interviews were transcribed, translated, thematically coded and categorised.
Both Irish and Swedish GPs unequivocally considered the early diagnosis of dementia important but neither group was proactive in making a diagnosis. Both groups relied heavily on family members or patients to bring to their attention memory loss and cognitive impairment problems. Most GPs reported a reluctance to diagnose and several acknowledged going to considerable lengths to avoid using the word 'dementia'. The Swedish GPs had more exposure to dementia-specific training, saw the value in training and were generally very satisfied with post-diagnostic dementia services available to patients, while Irish GPs were less likely to have undergone training, were more equivocal about its value and were very dissatisfied with the community services available.
Despite the presence of very adequate post-diagnostic support services for people recently diagnosed with dementia, the majority of Swedish GPs like their Irish counterparts displayed therapeutic nihilism and were reluctant to speak overtly to their patients about their dementia. Dementia continues to be a stigmatising illness for both Irish and Swedish GPs.