What Is Memory Assessment And How Is Dementia Diagnosed In The Uk?
We know it can be worrying when faced with the reality that you or your loved one is experiencing memory loss. Maybe you have noticed increasing forgetfulness or confusion, or that tasks of daily life such as preparing food or remembering appointments may have become troublesome. This does not necessarily mean that this is dementia.
However, you will naturally be concerned if instances are increasing in frequency and severity. You will want to find out what is causing the memory loss, and whether this is treatable. If you know the cause, you can arrange the treatment, care and support needed.
Many people with memory concerns are referred to a Memory Assessment Service (or memory clinic, as they were previously known). Here we explore what a memory assessment involves, its benefits and how you can access an appointment. This will mean you are informed to make the right choice for you or your loved one.
WHAT IS A MEMORY ASSESSMENT SERVICE?
A Memory Assessment Service is a specialist service where people with memory loss can go to be assessed and diagnosed. e Services are run by specialist healthcare professionals including psychiatrists, specialist nurses, and sometimes psychologists or neurologists. They will investigate the cause of the memory loss and other symptoms and advise on treatment options. These experts can then assist with any support you may need in the future.
HOW TO GET AN APPOINTMENT
If you are concerned about memory loss, consult your GP first. They will carry out a brief memory assessment and a physical examination including ordering a blood test to rule out physical causes such as a thyroid problem or vitamin deficiencies If there is no obvious physical cause, then they may refer to the local NHS Memory Assessment Service for further assessment. The length of NHS waiting lists varies throughout the country, but the average wait time is currently around seventeen weeks. Referrals to private (non-NHS) clinics are likely to be considerably shorter.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE APPOINTMENT?
At the appointment, the person experiencing the issues will receive a baseline assessment to establish the extent of the memory problems they are experiencing. Remember that there is no pressure to perform well in these tests – they are simply diagnostic tools used to provide insight into memory concerns or other cognitive issues.
During the initial consultation, the specialist will discuss your concerns to try and better understand you or your loved one’s experiences. You may be asked questions about your medical history or personal, social and work life. The experts will listen to your concerns so they can build up an accurate picture of what has been happening. You will then undergo a series of cognitive assessments and brain scans which will provide insight into the symptoms you are experiencing.
Following an initial consultation, it is likely you will then meet with a neuropsychologist with your loved one. They will get a deeper understanding as to your loved one’s current cognitive function and memory. The first stage is to conduct a Neuropsychology Assessment or ‘memory clinic test’ as it is more commonly known.
This assessment will determine how well each part of the brain (known as lobes) are functioning. The test is focused on understanding recall and short-term memory. Both 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. The temporal lobe is responsible for memory.
The neuropsychologist will initially conduct a general screening of your loved one’s brain. Many neurologists use the Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination (third edition).
This tests attention, orientation, memory, language, visual perceptual and visuospatial skills. It is useful in the detection of cognitive impairment. It is especially helpful 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 your loved one performed in the test. They will then compare results to the national average.
CT SCAN OR MRI BRAIN SCAN
The memory service may then organise a scan of the brain (most likely an MRI or CT scan). This will enable them to understand whether there is damage, and to what part of the brain. MRI scans will give detailed information on the brain’s blood supply and whether there are any blood vessels affected which may be impacting memory. It will also identify if there are any other problems such as brain swelling or a tumour.
You may also be offered a CT scan which takes x-ray images of the brain. These CT scans create images of structures within the brain that may be impacted by dementia and can be useful in ruling out any other underlying causes for your symptoms such as head injuries or stroke-related damage.
Although they can feel daunting, CT scans and MRI scans are completely painless. If you or your loved one is worried or anxious about undergoing these tests, share your concerns with the person who is ordering the scan as sometimes steps can be taken to make things easier.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER VISITING A MEMORY CLINIC?
Once the memory clinic has the results of the diagnostic tests, they will contact you and your family to book a time to discuss the results. At this time you may receive a dementia diagnosis, an alternative explanation for the difficulties, or if the results are ambiguous, you may be asked to return for further testing at a later date.
If dementia is identified, the healthcare professionals will discuss this diagnosis with you and your family and outline the next steps in terms of treatment and any support you require.
Remember that a memory clinic is staffed with professionals experienced in dementia treatments and care. They are on hand to provide you and your family with information and guidance. They can answer any questions you may have and provide in-depth information about you or your loved one’s diagnosis, so be sure to take the opportunity to share any concerns that you may have.
If necessary, they can direct you to dementia care services in your local area, such as companionship care for people who may be feeling vulnerable following their diagnosis.
The memory service will also report their findings and provide details about the diagnosis to you or your loved one’s GP so that they can collaborate on any prescribed treatment plans.
Depending on the diagnosis, it may be that you are asked to return to the memory service in a few months so further tests can be done to see how the condition has progressed and whether you need any further support.
RECEIVING A DEMENTIA DIAGNOSIS
It may be that the memory test and MRI scan confirms a diagnosis of dementia. We know how devastating this can be for those affected and their family. Receiving a diagnosis can be a positive step. It enables you to better understand the symptoms your loved one is experiencing. It will also determine the type of dementia your loved one has, for example Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia.
Knowing what dementia, they are living with will help plan the care and support they need. This means they have the right care at the right time. Your loved ones GP will be notified and will work collaboratively with other specialist to plan the support and medication they need. Further appointments to track the progression of the disease will be organised. Specialist memory clinic staff will be able to support you with any concerns you may have. They can provide advice about support services and help you plan long-term care.
CARE AT HOME IS BEST AFTER A DEMENTIA DIAGNOSIS
We have been providing high-quality dementia care for over 10 years. Following a diagnosis of dementia, it is important to consider the future. Plans for when the condition progresses need to be made. This way you avoid an unnecessary emergency where a care arrangement needs to be put in place urgently. This can be hugely upsetting for your loved one. With sensitive and gentle encouragement, have discussions with your loved one about the future.
If 24-hour care is required, then you will need to decide whether to have 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 many benefits. It helps improve overall health and well-being for a person living with dementia. Moving at any stage in life can be disruptive and stressful. For a person living with dementia, moving to a care home can affect their ability to live well. Receiving one-to-one live-in care can offer many benefits to a person living with dementia. Our expert care teams can support families with these decisions. They help ensure the best outcome for the person living with dementia and their family.
HOW CAN THE GOOD CARE GROUP HELP?
Our award-winning live-in care service is delivered by professional carers. Our carers are trained in how to care for someone living with dementia. They use a range of best practice techniques, including music therapy proven to provide reassurance, reduce anxiety and calm behaviours. We can reduce the need to use anti-psychotic drugs.
High-quality dementia care at home
With our own in-house Admiral Nurse, we provide practical and emotional support to the person living with dementia and their family. Dr Jane Pritchard supports clients with more complex dementia care needs by helping to create bespoke care plans, ensuring our professional carers have the correct training for the individual they are caring for and assisting clients to live well with dementia. Where possible, we reduce the use of antipsychotic medication.
In-depth dementia care planning
We ensure the care team that looks after your loved one is perfectly matched. They will be skilled and equipped to meet all your loved one’s dementia care needs. Our in-depth care planning process will ensure all your loved one’s needs are met. This process means we understand their preferences, choices and how they wish to lead their life, as well as their care needs.
Highest service rating from care regulators in England and Scotland
Unlike introduction agencies we are fully regulated in England and Scotland. This means the care and support we provide is regularly inspected. We are the only dedicated live-in care provider in England to achieve an ‘Outstanding’ rating by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). We have achieved this rating in all five measures – safe, effective, caring responsive and well-led. In Scotland, our service has been inspected by the Care Inspectorate (CI). It has achieved the highest rating of a 6 (Excellent) for quality of care and support and 5 (very good) for staffing, management and leadership. We know this provides families with peace of mind that their loved one is receiving the best possible dementia care.
A fully managed service
Families benefit from our fully managed service delivered by care experts. This means you do not need to worry about supervising and managing the carer yourself. Our professional carers are supervised by an experienced care manager. We provide this support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With our service, families do not have the burden of managing the care arrangement themselves. This gives families can have peace of mind, whilst enjoying quality time with their loved one. They do not have to worry about the tasks of caring.
ARRANGING DEMENTIA CARE AT HOME
Once you have decided care at home is right for you and your loved one – we are here to help.
We will conduct a comprehensive assessment of your loved one’s needs. This covers not just their care needs, but how they wish to live their life. The assessment informs the care plan which will be created by an expert care manager, guided by clinical experts. The plan of care guides our professional care team to deliver the highest quality dementia care to your loved one, which includes music therapy if you wish.
TALK TO US ABOUT OUR LIVE IN CARE SERVICES
Find out more about how we can help your loved one to live well in the comfort of their home – call our friendly experts today.