Dementia and depression are common psychiatric diagnoses in older people, and are common reasons for referral to liaison psychiatry services. The present study examined the accuracy of physicians' diagnoses for both disorders in consecutive referrals to a liaison old age psychiatry service.
Positive predictive values for depression and dementia were high, but levels of treatment of depression and documentation of past psychiatric history were both poor. Alcohol misuse and stroke accounted for the commonest accompanying disorders.
The findings have implications for the encouragement of physicians to treat depression when this is suspected. Educational programmes for this purpose may be useful, incorporating an exploration of attitudes and knowledge of physicians towards depression in older people.
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