Diagnosing, treating, and caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are challenges that require collaboration among family members, medical professionals, other health service providers, communities, and more. Health care professionals are on the front lines of this effort, working directly with patients and family members. Learn more below about the role of health care professionals in dementia care and about related federal government resources and tools.
Health care professionals are often the first points of contact for people with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia — including Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia, or frontotemporal dementia — who can help provide care and support. Read more about the different types of dementia.
Several types of health care professionals may be involved with diagnosing and providing care to people with dementia. These include:
- Primary care doctors
- Neurologists, who specialize in disorders of the brain and nervous system
- Geriatricians, who specialize in the care of older adults
- Geriatric psychiatrists, who specialize in the mental and emotional health of older adults
- Neuropsychologists, who specialize in standardized assessment of cognition and behavior
- Clinical psychologists, social workers, and general psychiatrists, who specialize in understanding, diagnosing, and treating mental health and behavior disorders
- Speech, physical, and occupational therapists, who specialize in improving patients’ ability to communicate and perform self-care activities
- Home health aides
These professionals may see patients at a health clinic, hospital, academic hospital, or long-term care facility.
Health care professionals can provide a variety of resources, including diagnostic evaluations, treatment plans, educational materials, referrals to specialists, and more. Providing resources that focus on dementia and dementia care is critical for improving health care, quality of life, and overall outcomes for people living with Alzheimer’s and related dementias, as well as for their families and other care providers.
The federal government is investing in evidence-based research to find new ways to optimize dementia care quality and efficiency, which is one of the five goals in the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease. Efforts include:
- Dementia-Specific Guidelines and Curricula. Completed in 2018, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) created and disseminated a repository of dementia curricula and practice guidelines for providers across the care continuum, including physicians, nurses, social workers, psychologists, other health care professionals, direct care workers, and informal caregivers.
- VA Geriatric Scholars Toolkit. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) supports the VA Geriatrics Scholars Program to help health care providers achieve a deeper understanding of conditions that affect older veterans. The Geriatric Scholars Toolkit covers 12 clinical topics in geriatrics, including dementia, chronic diseases, and rural health.
- Improvements in the Home Care Workforce (PDF, 88K). The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) took steps in 2016 to outline strategies states can use to strengthen the Medicaid home care workforce, an important element of dementia care. Through these efforts, CMS and the states have implemented regulations requiring greater community integration, adopted improvements to managed long-term care, including telehealth and telecommunications when necessary, and solicited public comment on how best to measure people’s access to home and community-based services.
- National Research Summits on Care and Services for Persons with Dementia, Family Members, and Caregivers. These summits take place every three years with a focus on research that is needed to improve quality of care and outcomes across care settings. Agenda topics cover several themes, including the organization, financing, and delivery of high-quality medical care across the continuum of health care settings. Participants address strategies for ensuring the provision of high-quality care among racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse individuals. Summit outcomes help shape future dementia care research priorities and initiatives.
- The Consortium for Detecting Cognitive Impairment, Including Dementia (DetectCID). DetectCID is a collaborative network of researchers who are testing cognitive assessment tools for use in clinical settings, with an emphasis on addressing barriers to detecting cognitive impairment associated with health disparities. The goal is to identify scientifically validated paradigms and tools that health care providers can use to easily and effectively detect cognitive impairment, including dementia, in everyday clinical settings and among racially and ethnically diverse individuals.
Information and tools are available that can help you improve care for people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
Help inform your patients about participating in clinical research studies for Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
Explore the resources on this website and linked below to find more information from federal government agencies.
Access free clinical practice tools, information on cognitive screening tests, training materials, and more resources for physicians, nurses, social workers, and other professionals.
Explore free publications from NIA on Alzheimer’s and related dementias, caregiving, and healthy aging. Also available in Spanish.
Learn about Alzheimer’s and related dementias, treatment and management, and providing care for someone with dementia. Also available in Spanish.
Access webinars and training, reports and toolkits, dementia capability assessment tools, and planning guides to expand the availability of community-level supportive services for people with dementia and their caregivers.
View a presentation that discusses intellectual and developmental disabilities and dementia, early signs, and use of the early dementia screening tool.
Read a summary of evidence on cognitive test and biomarker accuracy for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease and the effects of prescription drug treatments for Alzheimer’s.
Access reports that offer comprehensive, science-based information on health care technologies and strategies for people with dementia.
Find evidence-based research and scientific resources to help educate and inform people about Alzheimer’s and healthy aging, including publications, data and statistics, podcasts and videos, and training for health professionals.
Access a free introductory curriculum to increase awareness of the impact of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and the role of public health.
Learn about an education and training action agenda from the CDC’s Healthy Brain Initiative to help educate and inform professionals about Alzheimer’s and related dementias, cognitive issues, and dementia caregiving.
Learn about the ways CMS is improving dementia care through research, training, and revised guidance for surveyors of health facilities.
Find resources from the Medicare-Medicaid Coordination Office, including tips sheets and webinars, to help health plan and primary care providers understand, assess, and communicate about dementia.
Access free training and educational materials for students, primary care practitioners, geriatricians, direct service workers, and health professionals.
View these webinars from IHS covering topics such as diagnosis, treatment, and support, as well as keeping elders in the home and resources for caregivers’ health. Use keywords such as “dementia” to search for webinar topics.
Get free publications from NINDS on dementia. Also available in Spanish.
Learn about detecting cognitive impairment, including warning signs and next steps.
Access archived webinars, interactive forums, clinical demonstrations, resource toolkits and accredited courses on clinical topics in geriatrics, including dementia, for professionals.
Questions? Contact the ADEAR Center
The Alzheimer’s & related Dementias Education & Referral (ADEAR) Center is a service of the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health. Call 800-438-4380 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to talk with an information specialist.
This content is provided by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure it is accurate and up to date.