Memory Clinics will shortly be offered by a number of GP Practices within the Western Isles to assist with dementia diagnosis.

The Clinics will be directly organised and supported by GPs, with Broadbay Medical Practice in Stornoway being the first practice offering this service, to be shortly followed by Langabhat Medical Practice.

Dementia is like any other long-term health condition, in that it is extremely important for people to obtain an early diagnosis.  It is only by obtaining a diagnosis that the correct management and medications can be offered. 

Many people do not know what the symptoms of Dementia are. This is not surprising, as different kinds of dementia have different symptoms and the presence of one or more of the symptoms associated with dementia does not necessarily mean that a person has that condition.  

Symptoms may include:

memory loss – especially problems with memory for recent events, such as forgetting messages, remembering routes or names, and asking questions repetitively

increasing difficulties with tasks and activities that require organisation and planning

becoming confused in unfamiliar environments

difficulty finding the right words

difficulty with numbers and/or handling money in shops

changes in personality and mood

depression

Although memory problems are not always a sign of dementia and although mental faculties change with age, ageing is not synonymous with dementia. Many older people need more time to assimilate information and this may affect their capacity to learn and remember things. Nevertheless, older people are often worried about these changes and are afraid that they might be developing dementia.

Elizabeth Shelby, NHS Western Isles Alzheimer Scotland Nurse Consultant for Older People and Dementia said, “Existing drug treatment is most effective in the early stages, so delaying diagnosis prevents people from benefiting from the latest medical advances, which in many cases lead to a temporary improvement of symptoms.”

In the case of older people, the symptoms of depression are very similar to those observed in the early stages of dementia and it is not uncommon for the two to be mixed up.  Sometimes, the symptoms are linked to other disorders such as thyroid gland dysfunction, lack of vitamin B12, disorders of the metabolic system, alcohol or drug abuse, infections, surgical operations, stress and intolerance of medication. In such cases, the symptoms may be reversible.

Elizabeth added, “Diagnosis is clearly essential in order to rule out other causes for the symptoms experienced and correctly diagnose dementia. If you or a member of your family has concerns about memory loss, consult your general practitioner. He or she will carry out a few tests and if suspicions are confirmed further assessments can be arranged.

“The Western Isles Health and Social care Partnership is leading the way with advances in dementia diagnosis. While locally we have had the best percentage of people actually diagnosed with dementia against government projected figures, new research suggests 75% of people are still undiagnosed.”

If you have been recently diagnosed with dementia then your GP, practice nurse or social worker can refer you to the Western Isles Post Diagnostic Support (PDS) service, which is a free service aimed to help those with a dementia diagnosis and their family develop a personal plan that will support the patient to live well and independently with dementia for as long as possible.

If you, or a loved one, would like to discuss support options or for an informal chat, please contact the Western Isles Post Diagnostic Support Service, tel. (01851) 763338.