If you, or someone you know, is experiencing significant memory loss, confusion or problems with language and decision-making, then it is important to seek an assessment from a doctor.
Sensing these types of changes can be frightening – and wanting to avoid a possible diagnosis of dementia is a very normal response. However, a professional assessment is vital because there are many things which can cause memory problems.
What can cause memory problems?
There are many possible causes of memory problems:
- Common health conditions including depression, thyroid problems, chest or urinary tract infection.
- Emotional ordeals such as bereavement or trauma
- If you sometimes experience disorientation, this may be the result of sight or hearing problems, or the side effects from certain drugs.
Whatever the cause of memory problems, a diagnosis is important for getting you or the person you’re concerned about the support and treatment you need.
What should I do if I’m worried?
If you are worried about symptoms such as memory loss or confusion, the first step is to see your GP. They will ask a range of questions and carry out tests to check if the symptoms may be caused by one of the conditions described above.
If they’re unable to determine the cause of the symptoms, they are likely to make a referral to a memory clinic.
What happens at a memory clinic?
A memory clinic is a specialist service which will carry out a full assessment to diagnose the cause of memory problems.
These tests often include:
- tests conducted in-clinic to assess the ability to retain facts and carry out cognitive tasks
- a brain scan (usually a CAT scan or MRI scan)
- blood and urine samples.
The staff at the memory clinic are there to answer any questions or worries you have during your appointment. If you are worried about going alone to the appointment, you can bring a family or friend with you.
Here is a video by Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust explaining what it’s like to go to a memory clinic:
What if it is dementia?
For some people, receiving a diagnosis of dementia can come as a relief. Being given an explanation for the symptoms that they may have been experiencing for some time allows them to begin a process of adjustment. It can also be the catalyst for starting a conversation with relatives and accessing suitable treatment and support.
Click below to listen to Dementia Adviser Tamsin Hudson and head of service Peter Johnson discuss why it’s important to seek a diagnosis early – regardless of whether you are diagnosed with dementia in the end:
NHS Oxford Health: https://www.oxfordhealth.nhs.uk/service_description/memory-services/