Continued aging of the population is expected to be accompanied by substantial increases in the number of people with dementia and in the number of health care staff required to care for them. Adequate knowledge about dementia among health care staff is important to the quality of care delivered to this vulnerable population. The purpose of this study was to assess knowledge about dementia across a range of health care staff in a regional health service district.
Knowledge levels were investigated via the validated 30-item Alzheimer’s Disease Knowledge Scale (ADKS). All health service district staff with e-mail access were invited to participate in an online survey. Knowledge levels were compared across demographic categories, professional groups, and by whether the respondent had any professional or personal experience caring for someone with dementia. The effect of dementia-specific training or education on knowledge level was also evaluated.
A diverse staff group (N = 360), in terms of age, professional group (nursing, medicine, allied health, support staff) and work setting from a regional health service in Queensland, Australia responded. Overall knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease was of a generally moderate level with significant differences being observed by professional group and whether the respondent had any professional or personal experience caring for someone with dementia. Knowledge was lower for some of the specific content domains of the ADKS, especially those that were more medically-oriented, such as ‘risk factors’ and ‘course of the disease.’ Knowledge was higher for those who had experienced dementia-specific training, such as attendance at a series of relevant workshops.
Specific deficits in dementia knowledge were identified among Australian health care staff, and the results suggest dementia-specific training might improve knowledge. As one piece of an overall plan to improve health care delivery to people with dementia, this research supports the role of introducing systematic dementia-specific education or training.