07.01.01. Where and how do people get a diagnostic assessment for dementia? | South Africa

07.01.01. Where and how do people get a diagnostic assessment for dementia? | South Africa

15 Aug 2022

Visiting the family practitioner for advice is the typical path to access a diagnosis for suspected dementia (Vally, 2010). These pathways may differ across the two healthcare sectors, whereby private sector users approach the family doctor (GP) for assistance and public sector users’ first port of call typically is community healthcare clinics, day hospitals, and/or traditional healers. Mental health service users who access a mental healthcare facility will be assessed for dementia using neuropsychological assessment techniques (Vally, 2010, p.393).

Persons with suspected dementia should undergo further tests via specialist investigations and referrals (Vally, 2010). However, with constrained resources in the public sector, it is unclear how many service users are indeed referred for specialist testing and thorough physical and neurological examination (no routine monitoring and surveillance). Limited research in South Africa shows that dementia, if recognised and understood by health practitioners, is often viewed as a normal part of aging (Kalula & Petros, 2011; Prince et al., 2016a). This means that persons with suspected dementia are not referred for further investigation, diagnosis, and treatment.


Kalula, S. Z., & Petros, G. (2011). Responses to Dementia in Less Developed Countries with a focus on South Africa. Global Aging, 7(1), 31–40.

Prince, M., Comas-Herrera, A., Knapp, M., Guerchet, M., & Karagiannidou, M. (2016a). World Alzheimer Report 2016: Improving healthcare for people living with dementia. In Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI). https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.22580.04483

Vally, Z. (2010). The assessment and management of dementia. South African Family Practice, 52(5), 392–395. https://doi.org/10.1080/20786204.2010.10874014