Why have a Diagnostic Dementia Assessment?
Most people in the early stages of dementia will not notice any changes. They will not be too different from normal everyday memory lapses and may include difficulty finding words, forgetting names or phone numbers, forgetting conversations and details of recent events, losing items, becoming a little more confused. Other people may also notice subtle out of character traits in the person, such as a reduction in motivation or an increase in apathy.
An assessment can provide an early diagnosis or rule out conditions and experiences that cause symptoms similar to dementia but can be intervened with differently, such as depression or health problems. It can rule out if poor memory is related to stress, anxiety or emotional upsets.
Receiving diagnosis and being aware of an organic memory problem can mean accessing timely and appropriate advice in regards to emotional, practical and financial support. It can also allow the person with dementia and their loved ones to plan and make arrangements for their future.
Other benefits of arranging an assessment may include:
- Provision of specialist reports to clients and referrers
- Provision of ‘base-line’ assessment enabling close monitoring, reassessments and reviews
- Provision of specialist reports to complement other investigations providing broad, comprehensive analysis of symptoms and experiences
- Where appropriate, an early diagnosis and appropriate/cost-effective clinical management, treatment(s)
- Early intervention/assessment which would reduces anxiety and distress associated with waiting list delays
- Appropriate intervention of experiences such as memory-impacting depression and anxiety
- Psychological interventions provided for cognitive problems, adjustment to change and end of life issues
- Helping partners, families and carers understand and manage cognitive changes
- Assistance with supporting and maintaining independence in the community
What will the Diagnostic Dementia Assessment provide?
Specialist diagnostic assessments are very sensitive to the first signs of memory problems. An exact assessment package will depend upon the presentation, but typically it may include an informal assessment (a conversation about the experiences that are a cause for the concern), neuropsychological assessment, and delivery of evidence based psychological therapies for individuals, families or carers. It can also include advice and consultation to medical teams, rehabilitation professionals and families.
If required and indicated, a full neuropsychological assessment will conclude in a detailed profile of your memory and other cognitive functions. A full report will be provided to the client – it will clearly outline any difficulties and strengths, and will point towards an explanation of difficulties. Occasionally, further investigation by another medial professional will be indicated, in which case the report can be given to your GP, neurologist, psychiatrist or other specialist, or a direct liaison can be arranged.
What will the Diagnostic Dementia Assessment entail?
Specialist diagnostic assessments are undertaken by a Clinical Psychologist with knowledge and expertise in working with people with cognitive deterioration and associated psychological changes. Their relevant expertise includes:
- Mental health conditions associated with later life
- Psychometric assessment of cognition and emotion
- Differential diagnosis of dementia
Diagnostic assessment typically includes detailed clinical interview, discussion with another person, such as a friend or a family member, and formal cognitive assessment – an administration of a range of tests that look at such things as memory, concentration, and other thinking skills. This can take about two to three hours and may need to be spaced out over two to three meetings
The outcome will include a full report and a feedback session focused on outcomes and prognostic and management advice, psychological treatment and referral on to other professionals / services or a direct liaison with other professionals, if required. Advice about strategies to assist a poor memory and increasing forgetfulness can also be included.
Given the long term nature of many dementias, longer term monitoring and reassessments are offered.