A memory clinic is a specialist service where people with increasing memory loss can go to be assessed and diagnosed. A memory clinic will be run by specialist clinicians including neuropsychologists, psychologists and nurse specialists who will investigate the cause of the memory loss and provide treatment options, or assist with any support you may need following your assessment and any diagnosis.
At The Good Care Group, we know it can be a worrying and unsettling time for families when faced with the reality that your loved one or family member is living with some form of memory loss in later life. It might be that you have noticed your loved one is becoming increasingly forgetful, confused or is struggling with everyday tasks.
This does not necessarily mean that they have dementia, but if instances are increasing in frequency and severity you will naturally be concerned, and will want to find out what is causing the memory loss so you can provide your loved one with the support they need.
If you are concerned about a loved one who is experiencing increasing memory loss, you should consult your GP in the first instance. They will assess your loved one and may decide to refer them to a memory service, or memory clinic as they are more commonly known.
Depending on where you live in the country, a typical referral to a memory clinic will take on average 5-6 weeks.
What happens at a memory clinic?
When you attend a memory clinic the specialist will talk to you about your concerns and will, with your permission, involve any family members in the discussion. They will be seeking to better understand your experiences and listen to your concerns so they can build up an accurate picture of what has been happening.
Following an initial consultation, it is likely you will then meet with a neuropsychologist. They will wish to get a deeper understanding as to your current cognitive function and memory. The first stage is to conduct a Neuropsychology Assessment or ‘memory test’ as it is more commonly known.
This assessment will look to determine how well each part of the brain (known as lobes) are functioning. The test is focused on understanding recall and short-term memory which are impacted if someone is living with dementia. If a person struggles to complete the memory test successfully, this may indicate damage to the frontal lobe or temporal lobe in the brain – the frontal lobe covers thinking, planning and problem solving, whilst the temporal lobe is responsible for memory.
The neuropsychologist will initially conduct a general screening of most aspects of the brain. Many neurologists use the Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination (third edition) which tests attention, orientation, memory, language, visual perceptual and visuospatial skills. It is useful in the detection of cognitive impairment, especially in the detection of Alzheimer’s disease and frontal-temporal dementia. Depending on the outputs of this test, the neuropsychologist will undertake more detailed testing of areas of concern.
The test can take up to two hours. Once the test is complete the neuropsychologist will summarise how well the person performed in the test compared with a national average range.
MRI brain scan
The memory clinic may then organise for an MRI scan of the brain to understand whether there is damage and to what part of the brain.
The MRI will give information on the brain’s blood supply, which will determine if any blood vessels are affected which are impacting memory, but it will also identify any brain swelling or a tumour.
Once the neuropsychologist has the results of the MRI scan, they will discuss with you and your family the diagnosis and outline next steps in terms of treatment and any support you require.
It may be that you are asked to return to the memory clinic in a few months’ time so further tests can be done to see how your condition has progressed.
Receiving a dementia diagnosis
It may of course be that the memory test and MRI scan confirms a diagnosis of dementia. We know how devastating this can be for not just the person receiving the diagnosis, but all the family. However, receiving a diagnosis can be a positive step to understanding the symptoms you are experiencing and the type of dementia you have. Knowing what dementia you are living with will determine what care and support needs to be put in place now and in the future.
Supporting families through a dementia diagnosis
At The Good Care Group, we have been supporting individuals and families through their dementia journey for over 10 years. Following a diagnosis of dementia, it is important to consider the future and what plans may be needed as the condition progresses. This way you avoid an unnecessary emergency where a care arrangement needs to be put in place urgently, which may be hugely upsetting and disruptive to the person needing care. With sensitive and gentle encouragement it is important to have discussions with your loved one about what may be needed in the future.
If 24-hour care is required then you will need to decide whether to receive this care in your own home or move into a care home. We know receiving care in the comfort, safety and familiarity of your own home has far reaching benefits in improving overall health and well-being for a person living with dementia. Moving at any stage in life can be disruptive and stressful. When an individual is living with dementia the process of moving to a care home, away from their much-loved home full if its treasured possessions and memories can be really heart-wrenching and daunting, affecting their ability to live well with dementia. Our personalised approach to providing high-quality dementia care, with a fully managed and flexible service that families can rely on is setting the standards in live-in care. There are many compelling benefits of live-in care as opposed to moving into a care home.
Our expert care teams can support families with these decisions ensuring the best outcome for the person living with dementia.
Specialist dementia care at home delivered by expert carers
All our professional carers are trained in how to care with someone living with dementia and use a range of best practice techniques proven to provide reassurance, reduce anxiety and calm behaviours, whilst reducing the need to use anti-psychotic drugs used widely in many care home settings. This means the person with dementia can live well, despite the challenges dementia can present with the gentle encouragement and compassionate care provided by our dementia carers. The high-quality care provided by our dementia carers has seen a 66% reduction in the use of antipsychotic medications compared with the average care home.
Our collaborative approach to working with leading medical experts, academic bodies and leading charities ensure our care is of the very highest standards. Our work with the Contented Dementia Trust to introduce the SPECAL approach helps us to understand and discover what is important to the person living with dementia, enabling us to develop a meaningful programme of care that bridges the gap between the present and the past.
We adopt a blended approach to delivery of dementia care, led and supported by our own Consultant Admiral Nurse. The support from an Admiral Nurse, working with leading dementia charity, Dementia UK means we can offer unrivalled levels of emotional and practical support based on best practice dementia care to those living with dementia and their families.
In addition to the training all our professional carers receive, our management team complete a higher-level dementia care training programme. It does not stop there. Our care teams receive on-going coaching, mentoring and support based on latest thinking and research that ensure they have the knowledge, skills and aptitude to deliver positive dementia care.
Content authored by Dr Jane Pritchard 11 April 2023
Dr Jane Pritchard is a consultant Admiral Nurse who specialises in the care and support of those living with dementia. She is a registered nurse with the Nursing and Midwifery Council specialising in mental health. She has over 20 years' experience working in care and has authored several publications on dementia care.