Open Access Research article

Current experiences and educational preferences of general practitioners and staff caring for people with dementia living in residential facilities

Christopher Beer123*, Barbara Horner4, Osvaldo P Almeida125, Samuel Scherer6, Nicola T Lautenschlager1257, Nick Bretland8, Penelope Flett9, Frank Schaper10 and Leon Flicker123

Author Affiliations

1 Western Australian Centre for Health & Ageing, Western Australian Institute for Medical Research, Perth, Australia

2 Centre for Medical Research, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

3 School of Medicine and Pharmacology, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

4 Centre for Research on Ageing, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

5 School of Psychiatry and Neurosciences, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

6 Royal Freemasons Homes of Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

7 Academic Unit for Psychiatry of Old Age, St Vincent's Health, Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

8 Rowethorpe Medical Centre, Bentley, Western Australia, Australia

9 Brightwater Care Group (Inc), Perth, Western Australian, Australia

10 Alzheimer's Australia WA Ltd, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Geriatrics 2009, 9:36  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-9-36

Published: 12 August 2009



Residential care is important for older adults, particularly for those with advanced dementia and their families. Education interventions that achieve sustainable improvement in the care of older adults are critical to quality care. There are few systematic data available regarding the educational needs of Residential Care Facility (RCF) staff and General Practitioners (GPs) relating to dementia, or the sustainability of educational interventions. We sought to determine participation in dementia education, perceived levels of current knowledge regarding dementia, perceived unmet educational needs, current barriers, facilitators and preferences for dementia education.


A mixed methods study design was utilised. A survey was distributed to a convenience sample of general practitioners, and staff in 223 consecutive residential care facilities in Perth, Western Australia. Responses were received from 102 RCF staff working in 10 facilities (out of 33 facilities who agreed to distribute the survey) and 202 GPs (19% of metropolitan GPs). Quantitative survey data were summarised descriptively and chi squared statistics were used to analyse the distribution of categorical variables. Qualitative data were collected from general practitioners, staff in residential care facilities and family carers of people with dementia utilizing individual interviews, surveys and focus groups. Qualitative data were analysed thematically.


Among RCF staff and GPs attending RCF, participation in dementia education was high, and knowledge levels generally perceived as good. The individual experiences and needs of people with dementia and their families were emphasised. Participants identified the need for a person centred philosophy to underpin educational interventions. Limited time was a frequently mentioned barrier, especially in relation to attending dementia care education. Perceived educational needs relating to behaviours of concern, communication, knowledge regarding dementia, aspects of person centred care, system factors and the multidisciplinary team were consistently and frequently cited. Small group education which is flexible, individualized, practical and case based was sought.


The effectiveness and sustainability of an educational intervention based on these findings needs to be tested. In addition, future interventions should focus on supporting cultural change to facilitate sustainable improvements in care.