Irish Journal of Medical Science (1971 -)

, Volume 187, Issue 3, pp 683–687 | Cite as

Cognitive assessment of older adults in general practice: the collateral history

  • Adam H. DyerEmail author
  • Tony Foley
  • Brendan O’Shea
  • Sean P. Kennelly
Brief Report



The collateral (or informant) history is a key component in the assessment of older adults presenting with a memory problem or concern over cognition. Despite this, it rarely features in medical literature and academic curricula. Its role in general practice has never been assessed.


The aim of this study is to assess the role of the collateral history in the investigation of cognitive impairment in general practice.


An online survey distributed to three nationally representative cohorts of GPs in Ireland (n = 692).


Ninety-five (14%; 52.2% male) responded. Nearly all (87%; 83/95) indicate that it is most often a family member who brings possible cognitive impairment to the attention of their GP. The vast majority obtain a collateral history in > 90% of cases (72.6%; 69/95) and rate it very useful in their clinical assessment of cognition. GPs report the collateral history as readily available and rarely refused, with the general practice environment well-suited to obtaining collateral histories. A small minority routinely use the GPCOG informant section (3.2%; 3/95). Nearly all (92.6%; 88/95) report having received no training in obtaining collateral histories with most (79%; 75/95) welcoming of further training in this area.


Despite recognition of the utility and importance of the collateral history, the vast majority of GPs report having never received training in obtaining one and do not use structured tools to guide their interview. Further emphasis on the informant history as a distinct clinical entity on medical curricula and increasing emphasis on the availability of structured informant tools are warranted.


Collateral history Dementia General practice Informant history Older adults 


Compliance with ethical standards

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individuals participating in the present study.


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adam H. Dyer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tony Foley
    • 2
  • Brendan O’Shea
    • 3
  • Sean P. Kennelly
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.School of Medicine, DSE Intern NetworkTrinity College DublinDublinIreland
  2. 2.Department of General PracticeUniversity College CorkCorkIreland
  3. 3.Department of Public Health and Primary CareTrinity College DublinDublinIreland
  4. 4.Centre for Ageing, Neuroscience and the HumanitiesTallaght HospitalDublinIreland
  5. 5.Department of Medical GerontologyTrinity College DublinDublinIreland

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