Memory Assessment

Memory problems are common

Many people notice that as they grow older they become a little more forgetful, they become more easily tired and lose track when required to pay attention for long periods, they may forget where they have put things down or may forget items when shopping.

Many of these changes are entirely normal and just a part of normal ageing.  Memory lapses are expected to occur as we age, and are generally nothing to be alarmed about.

It is also very common for memory to be affected by everyday stresses, by our mood and by anxiety. It can therefore seem that memory may be failing without an individual realising how much stress they are under or that they are depressed.

It is normal for an individual's memory, whatever their age, to seem less efficient when under stress, anxious or low in mood.

Mild Cognitive Impairment

In some individual's however memory becomes an increasing difficulty which they, or more often their family, notice more and more. In these cases it is important to distinguish between a normal age-related memory loss and what is known as Mild Cognitive Impairment.

Mild Cognitive Impairment is a more severe form of normal age-related decreases in brain functioning. It can occur for a number of reasons one of which may be the early signs of dementia

Most people in the early stages of dementia will often notice little if any cognitive changes.  It is only when dementia hits the later stages that the symptoms become readily noticeable. 

It is also important to recognise that during the early stages of dementia people suffer from impairments that are so mild that few people will notice them. They are only subtly different from normal everyday memory lapses eg, difficulty finding words, forgetting names or phone numbers, forgetting conversations and details of recent events, losing items, disorientation and subtle personality changes.

Other risk factors which may also predispose individuals to Mild Cognitive Impairment include: A family history of dementia, smoking, heavy alcohol use, drug abuse, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

In other individuals who are suffering from chronic health conditions such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, HIV, diabetes, long term drug or alcohol abuse, stroke and head injury memory and other cognitive problems are common and a part of the disease process

According to Department of Health, National Institute of Clinical Excellence and other National Health Service guidelines these individuals should have their memory and other cognitive functioning tested and monitored and suitable interventions should be put in place to help as far as is possible to minimise the memory and other cognitive difficulties. Despite its best efforts, the NHS is not always able to provide this vital service. 

New treatments, appropriate care and help with adjustment

Another reason to have ones memory tested is that in some cases new medications can slow the deterioration of memory if they are administered when the first signs of memory loss and dementia begin to appear. These treatments are most effective when the dementia is identified in its earliest stages.  However, most people do not notice the subtle changes in their memory during the early stages of dementia. 

It is critical to identify memory problems as early as possible so that they may be treated at their earliest stages.  It may therefore be a good idea for anyone approaching 60 to have their memory and other cognitive functioning assessed by a trained professional periodically. 

Again, the NHS is not always able to provide this service and because most individuals do not have ready access to effective and affordable memory assessment services, people with dementia are often diagnosed when the disease is in an advanced stage.

It is also important to measure the degree of cognitive loss in individuals who are suffering from chronic health conditions so that appropriate rehabilitation can be put in place. Despite its best efforts the NHS is not always able to offer this vital service. 

What can you do

A full neuropsychological assessment from a Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist will provide a detailed profile of your memory and other cognitive functioning.

This may be all you need to put your mind at ease that there is nothing to worry about. Our consultants will also be able to advise you on memory strategies to assist you with your forgetfulness.

Most importantly, whilst a neuropsychological assessment alone is not enough to make a firm diagnosis of dementia it is a vital component and such an assessment will clearly highlight if there is a potential problem and whether you need to seek further medical investigation. In such cases we will inform your GP immediately that further investigation is warranted without delay.

A full neuropsychological assessment using the most valid, sensitive and gold-standard measures available can take several hours.  Psychology Chambers are however committed to making our services accessible to the public and we will do our best to provide affordable memory screenings to individuals. These assessments may also be covered by private health insurance or your GP may be willing to pay for them directly.

If you are concerned about your memory then please contact Psychology Chambers in confidence to discuss whether you would like your memory and other cognitive functioning tested

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