Role Expectations in Dementia Care Among Family Physicians and Specialists


  • Susan Hum Women's College Hospital
  • Carole Cohen University of Toronto Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
  • Malini Persaud York University
  • Joyce Lee University of Toronto North York General Hospital
  • Neil Drummond University of Alberta
  • William Dalziel University of Ottawa
  • Nicholas Pimlott University of Toronto Women's College Hospital



dementia, physicians, diagnosis, management, attitudes



The assessment and ongoing management of dementia falls largely on family physicians. This pilot study explored perceived roles and attitudes towards the provision of dementia care from the perspectives of family physicians and specialists.


Semi-structured, one-to-one interviews were conducted with six family physicians and six specialists (three geriatric psychiatrists, two geriatricians, and one neurologist) from University of Toronto-affiliated hospitals. Transcripts were subjected to thematic content analysis.


Physicians’ clinical experience averaged 16 years. Both physician groups acknowledged that family physicians are more confident in diagnosing/treating uncomplicated dementia than a decade ago. They agreed on care management issues that warranted specialist involvement. Driving competency was contentious, and specialists willingly played the “bad cop” to resolve disputes and preserve long-standing therapeutic relationships. While patient/caregiver education and support were deemed essential, most physicians commented that community resources were fragmented and difficult to access. Improving collaboration and communication between physician groups, and clarifying the roles of other multi-disciplinary team members in dementia care were also discussed.


Future research could further explore physicians’ and other multi-disciplinary members’ perceived roles and responsibilities in dementia care, given that different health-care system-wide dementia care strategies and initiatives are being developed and implemented across Ontario.


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How to Cite

Hum S, Cohen C, Persaud M, Lee J, Drummond N, Dalziel W, Pimlott N. Role Expectations in Dementia Care Among Family Physicians and Specialists. Can Geriatr J [Internet]. 2014 Jul. 9 [cited 2022 Aug. 15];17(3):95-102. Available from:



Original Research