BACKGROUND/AIMS: Despite reporting high levels of burden, supporters of people with young onset dementia (YOD) underuse formal community services. Previous quantitative studies in YOD are of limited utility in guiding service design because they did not consider important contextual barriers to service use. The aim of this study was to identify all relevant barriers and describe the service features considered most important to improving uptake by people with YOD and their supporters.
METHODS: Eighty-six people with consensus-confirmed YOD (mean onset age 55.3 years) and/or their primary supporter participated in quantitative interviews, and 50 also participated in one of seven qualitative focus groups. Interview participants reported levels of community service use and reasons for non-use, functional impairment, behavioural and psychological symptoms, supporter burden, social network, and informal care provision. Focus group participants expanded on reasons for non-use and aspects of an ideal service.
RESULTS: Although at least one community service was recommended to most participants (96.8%), 66.7% chose not to use one or more of these. Few of the clinical or demographic factors included here were related to service use. Qualitative analyses identified that lack of perceived need, availability, and YOD-specific barriers (including ineligibility, unaffordability, lack of security, lack of childcare) were commonly reported. Five aspects of an ideal service were noted: unique, flexibile, affordable, tailored, and promoting meaningful engagement.
CONCLUSION: People with YOD and their families report that formal community services do not meet their personal and psychological needs. Researchers can provide ongoing assessment of program feasibility, suitability, and generalisability.