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Women with dementia may be missing out on vital speech therapy

Friday 23rd December 2016
Female dementia patients could be missing out on vital communication support, according to new research. Image: warrengoldswain via iStock
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Women suffering from dementia may be missing out on support in help understanding their condition, eating and communicating with others, as new research shows they are less likely to visit their GP than their male counterparts for this kind of support.

According to a study carried out at University College London and published in the journal Age and Ageing, only around half of dementia patients in the UK typically undergo an annual review for their condition with their GP, with women less likely than men to attend this appointment.

As a result, female patients are more likely to struggle with the degenerative condition, as they will not be referred for potentially life-changing speech therapy services or other types of support that could allow them to live more independently for longer.

The researchers believe this is because women tend to live for longer than men on average, meaning they do not necessarily have anyone to encourage them to visit their doctor in later life.

However, this can lead to their health worsening, particularly if they are unable to eat or communicate how they are feeling, which highlights the importance of them accessing speech therapy and physiotherapy services as soon after their diagnosis as possible.

What's more, it was also found that women with dementia were more likely to be prescribed antipsychotic or sedative medication over long-term periods, which is something that could see their health worsening further, as these drugs mean they are even less likely to need to visit their doctor for a review.

With this in mind, GPs need to be taking a different approach to targeting dementia patients and their loved ones to ensure they are attending regular review appointments so they can be referred to further services, such as speech therapy.

Lead author of the study Dr Claudia Cooper commented: "Women with dementia who live on their own may need additional support accessing healthcare services. We should ensure GPs have the resources to proactively engage with these patients and review their condition regularly to make sure their treatment plans, including any drugs, are appropriate."

She added that this could "help [women] to live well with dementia for longer".

Written by Martin Lambert

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