Perceptions of Dementia Across Students in Health Professions Programs at Texas State University
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Background: Dementia is a progressive degenerative disease that can result in decline of cognitive functioning. Individuals with dementia often seek therapy or treatment from a variety of health professionals. Due to the rising incidence of dementia in the world, it is important that future clinicians be properly trained to manage dementia. Method: Forty-four students in Communication Disorders (CDIS), 23 in Physical Therapy (PT), and 16 in Nursing (NURS) departments at Texas State University completed an adapted version of the Dementia Attitudes Scale (DAS) via Qualtrics. The DAS includes twenty questions assessing attitudes and knowledge about dementia on a 7-point rating scale. Responses were calculated for attitude, knowledge, and total DAS scores. Results: There were no significant differences among departments for attitudes, knowledge, total DAS score, and program preparation. Post-hoc Tukey test revealed students in the CDIS department reported lower rating of personal relationships with individuals with dementia when compared to PT and NURS (p= 0.07). There were also no significant differences between undergraduate students and graduate students in any department for any of the variables. Students with greater personal relationship ratings and those who perceived their programs to have prepared them well to work with individuals with dementia had more positive attitudes towards those with dementia. Conclusion: Program coordinators may need to provide students with more opportunities to interact with those with dementia to improve attitudes toward dementia.