The suspicion that your ageing relative may be experiencing signs and symptoms of dementia can result in a great deal of worry and stress. Perhaps you may have noticed that they’re starting to forget essential things such as events, dates and appointments.
Also, they may start getting confused about their current financial status and losing their items frequently than usual while at the same time struggling to remember familiar things and names.
It means that a prompt diagnosis is vital to minimise the progression of this illness. If you notice any signs of dementia, the first port of call should be your loved one’s general practitioner, but unfortunately, most of the physicians just do not have the resources and time to enable them to make an accurate diagnosis.
This leads to delays in diagnosis and the chances of the illness progressing without the necessary treatments. A complete diagnosis of dementia follows a wide range of memory clinic tests that a general practitioner probably has neither the necessary skills nor time to carry out.
It means that you and your loved one are more likely to be referred to the nearby memory or dementia clinic.
Currently, there are various reasons why most elderly individuals visit memory clinics. Most of them experience memory issues due to age as well as other conditions. These conditions can include the early stages of dementia conditions like Alzheimers disease.
The objectives of the memory clinics are to discover memory issues as well as other illnesses like vascular dementia and to provide patients with the appropriate information, treatment and support that they need to help them live an independent life.
A memory clinic is a medical facility specialising in the diagnosis and assessment of memory illnesses.
These facilities were first seen in the United Kingdom in the early 1980s, and they were primarily in academic research centres. By 2009, there were approximately 246 dementia healthcare facilities offering various memory clinic tests.
These clinics perform additional memory tests and diagnosis while providing much-needed support to individuals with dementia. Before taking your loved one to a memory clinic, you will need to find out essential information about this facility including why your elderly relative might be requested to visit it and what happens when you get there.
Currently, there are many memory clinics in the United Kingdom providing the diagnosis of various illnesses including Lewy body dementia.
These clinics offer the services of multiple specialists including geriatricians who deal with matters relating to ageing, nurses with specialist vascular dementia as well as Alzheimer’s training and psychologists who handle mental health illnesses.
When you visit memory clinics with your loved ones, they will be provided with a baseline assessment to identify their current memory issues. Specialists will offer them a wide range of memory clinic tests to check on their respective ability to remember things and retain information which will provide an initial insight into the mental capabilities.
It is essential to stress to your ageing relative to supply urine and blood samples to the health professionals. Also, they will undergo some scans which include the CAT scan that is commonly referred to as computerised axial tomography. The CAT scan helps the health experts to take some x-ray images of your loved one’s brain.
Other scans include the MRI scan that utilises magnetic resonance imaging to display a detailed image of your loved one’s brain. The MRI scan is vital since it helps the doctor to identify damages caused by vascular dementia. Memory clinics also use machines that utilise electroencephalogram imaging to view and record activity within your brain.
They also use a SPECT scan that primarily depends on a single-photon emission and computerised tomography to assess the blood flow through your ageing relative’s brain. These scans may seem daunting; however, they are painless.
They are essential in the diagnosis and treatment of dementia disease. The scans also allow healthcare professionals to quickly identify any areas of anomalies or shrinkage which indicate the diagnosis of dementia.
Here is a really useful video where someone shares their experiences of a memory clinic.
During your first visit to a dementia clinic, nurses, psychologists or doctors will assess you. You should bring either your friend or family member along with you during the visit since the health expert may need to talk to them about any of your signs and symptoms that they may identify.
Remember to carry your hearing aid or spectacles if you always use them. Also, carry the details and reports of other medications that you are currently taking.
The health experts may request you to carry out some tests to check your thinking and memory processes. It might be daunting to do some of these tests, and it is easy to get stressed up, but you should try your best not to experience such things during the assessment process. You should remember that they are not trying to show you up or catch you out; they only need accurate results and ideas of how you are coping.
Depending on the facilities available in the clinic, you may undergo other tests either in the facility or be referred to the nearest health centre’s neuropsychology unit for further scans. At the end of the scans, you will be given the results, and they will inform you if and when you need to revisit the facility.
Also, they will send the results of your test to your general practitioner. They may request you to come back to the facility in a few days or months for additional check-ups and follow-up tests. In cases you or your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, which is a type of progressive dementia, healthcare professionals will be in the position to prescribe medication, counselling and talk therapies or even support for the life story work.
If your family member is diagnosed with dementia, you and your loved ones will need to access information, training and even advice on how to handle the person as well as other care activities.
Some signs and symptoms of dementia can be treated with physical therapy or medication. It means that it can be beneficial to find out what is causing the symptoms sooner rather than later. It can help you make decisions about finances, health care, legal matters and living options as well as planning for your future.
Also, knowing the symptoms will provide you with more time to build and develop an excellent relationship with your caregivers and doctors. Your general practitioner may work closely with you to find out what is behind your current symptoms or might refer you to various specialists such as neurologist, psychiatrist, psychologist or geriatrician, who specialises in the care of ageing adults for further tests.
Some of these tests include:
Your primary care physician will start with this type of test. They will ask you several questions about your previous medical reports as well as other things such as if you are currently taking any medications, if the illness is common in your family, any changes in personality and behaviour among other basic things.
Also, the physician will ask your close friend or family member about any cases of dementia in your family since most individuals with this illness are not always sure of their conditions.
The cognitive tests help to measure the ability to think. They mainly focus on things such as counting, memory, language skills and reasoning.
For example, a physician may request you to draw a simple clock and then mark the hands at specific times. They can also provide you with some numbers or words and ask you to repeat and remember them. They may also request you to make simple calculations like counting backwards.
During neurological tests, your medical expert will test your eye movements, reflexes, your balance and assess how well your senses will work. For the physician to perform this test, they may request you to pull or push their hands using your arm or even stand with the eyes closed and touch your mouth.
Concerning reflexes, your medical professional will tap a rubber hammer against any part of your body and assess your response. Other tests include short-term memory, working memory tests and healthy brain tests.
Currently, there are many places across the United Kingdom where you can find a memory clinic. It means that you can easily find the much-needed support services near you.
You can find local support services for individuals with Alzheimers and their carers in Northern Ireland, Wales and England. If you have any concerns or questions about Alzheimers and dementia, you can use the Society Dementia Helpline to provide you with support and information.