All in the aid of research, Visit Fylde Coast has been for a memory test!
I have to say I was a bit concerned, because I knew what type of questions they would ask, and know that I am always hopeless at them, so I was concerned that I’d fail miserably – which is apparently how most people feel.
My memory test was all in the aid of research. Like many people these days I’m very busy and have a huge amount going on in that supercomputer that we all carry about in our heads called our brains. So yes, I do forget things – people’s names in particular, even those of people that I know well. My grandma always called everyone ‘Mrs Thingumajig’, and clearly, I’m taking after her in more ways than one.
I’m not concerned that I’ve got a memory loss problem, but I must admit that dementia is something that I do think about because my great grandma had what they called in the 50’s ‘senile dementia’, or what would today be Alzheimers, and my grandma had vascular dementia caused by a series of TIAs (small strokes). So even at my age of forty something, yes, it is something that’s on my radar, especially since two thirds of people with dementia are women – our brains are probably exhausted by old age from all the multi-tasking that we do during our lives.
The MAC Memory Assessment Centre is on Faraday Way – near the Norcross civil service offices in a perfectly inoffensive modern office building. When I got there I was met by a cheery smile and a coffee, then a chit-chat with Paul, the ex GP who carried out my test and all the usual banter about me not having a memory and the zero likelihood of me passing the 11+ exam, should I have had to take it at the age of 11.
Paul and I went through to the consulting room where he explained how he would carry out a meeting with a patient, which would start with a chat about their concerns and worries, and what had brought them there in the first place. Medication can be a factor in memory levels – things like painkillers for chronic pain, your former job is relevant, and patients are always encouraged to bring along a family member or friend to complete the picture.
The memory test then comes in and there are different types of test depending on how a patient presents. A cognitive test is a measure of basic memory function, then a more difficult test probes further and is especially useful for people who have been former teachers and secretaries who apparently are always the top performers in these tests because they have been mentally agile in their working lives.
In his wisdom Paul decided to carry out the more difficult test on me – and straight away I went into a flap! The first question was a list of words which he recited to me and then asked me to repeat back as many as I could remember. I got the first two and the last one and went completely blank! The next task was translating numerical digits into spelled out numbers. He decided that I’d got number dyslexia when I just couldn’t repeat the numbers backwards that he gave me!
Apparently there are many reasons why people feel they have memory loss, including stressful jobs, alcohol, a cocktail of prescription drugs, or a traumatic event. If you’re worried that you might be one of the 800,000 people in the UK who have dementia, then it’s best to go along and get a check – which is completely free of charge and will put your mind at rest. Typically, dementia tends to affect older people, but the younger ones among us can be affected by early onset dementia and in fact there are 17,000 such people currently suffering from the condition in the UK today.
So, as I completely expected, I was diagnosed sane and in possession of my memory – although some would doubt that (but I did write this article without referring to my notes so that’s a good sign). But, if you’ll never see middle age again, and you go along for a memory test and your suspicions are right and there is a clinical reason for it. What then?
Well you’ve done exactly the right thing and been to exactly the right place. The service at MAC is free at the point of initial assessment, and if you are found to have a condition the service and any treatment which you receive is free while ever you need it.
So what happens next? You’ll be referred to your own GP and you may need to have simple blood tests to rule out things like thyroid problems and vitamin B12 deficiency which can cause similar symptoms and are easily treatable. Or you may need a CT scan to rule out strokes and vascular damage in your brain and confirm a diagnosis of Alzheimers. If you have got it, the recommendation will be made that you take Aricept (or a similar medication of this type) – the standard treatment for mild to moderate Alzheimers.
The good news is that if you begin treatment with Aricept at the very early stages of your disease it can help to slow the progression of it, and also helps to reduce the effects of the disease, slowing things like personality changes and delusions. Putting your head in the sand might seem like a better option if you think you’ve got a problem, but in fact it’s the worst thing that you can do because early treatment stops your disease from being a self fulfilling prophecy where you quickly end up in a care home.
In fact the biggest majority of people (two thirds of them) with dementia live in the community while just one third live in a care home. Currently, only 43% of people with dementia in the UK receive a diagnosis, and as diagnosis and treatment improves so should the prognosis and quality of life. In 2012 the cost of dementia to the UK will be over £23 billion, so you can see why research and improvements in treatment and halting progression of the disease are vitally important. It doesn’t just affect each and every individual patient and their families, financially it affects all of us even if we just don’t know it.
The other benefit of the MAC Memory Assessment Centre is that they will keep an eye on you and keep checking your memory periodically for years if need be. Not only does it give you some peace of mind that you’re being monitored, it also creates a trail of evidence of your condition. And you’ve also got the benefit of an impartial advocate in the clinicians at the Centre, who will act on your best interests and on your behalf if they feel that your condition isn’t being managed as well as it could be, or if you would benefit from additional support or treatment. They’ll also signpost you to support services and other sources of help.
So far so good. What about the future and the progression of your disease? One of the benefits of being ‘on the books’ so to speak at MAC is that you can access clinical trials that are appropriate to your diagnosis, as they become available at the clinic . Let’s face it, clinical trials are the bedrock of progress – without them we’d not have penicillin and the flu jab – on both of which millions depend every year. The MAC Memory Assessment Centre was formed by clinicians and the advancement of medicine and treatment is at the very heart of what they do, in fact they were part of the trials for Aricept which has fundamentally improved the lives of thousands of Alzheimers patients already.
If you do decide to take part in a trial, and the drug works for you, then you’ll sometimes be given the opportunity to continue taking it for the long term, as an add-on to the standard treatment with Aricept and whatever else you take. Now you can’t say fairer than that, it’s got to be a win-win situation for everyone.
In addition to the research being conducted into memory problems, the clinic also carries out clinical research studies into such diverse areas as diabetes, pain, fibromyalgia and depression (to name but a few!).
Find all the details including contact information about the MAC Memory Assessment Centre here.
If dementia affects your life, you might be interested in ‘Who Cares Real Life’ and the ‘Who Cares Blog’.
Friendly team at the MAC Memory Assessment Centre
MAC Memory Assessment Centre at Bispham