What Is A Memory Clinic?
A memory clinic, or memory service, is a specialist centre where people can go to have problems with their memory tested. They are staffed by specialists that can perform further diagnosis and run more detailed memory tests than your local GP. They can also provide additional support to people already living with memory problems.
In this article, we explore all the information you need to know about these clinics, including why you might be asked to visit one and what to expect when you get there.
Why might you be referred to a memory clinic?
In most cases, people are referred to a memory clinic for two reasons:
- Either those around you have been having concerns about your memory or your cognition, or;
- Your GP has recommended that you get some further testing.
Your doctor will normally refer you after conducting a memory assessment. These basic assessments can determine whether you need to see experts who specialise in memory problems, such as a psychologist or dementia specialist etc.
The idea behind a memory clinic is that it provides a more in-depth look at any memory problems you might be having. They can provide a diagnosis, offer treatment where appropriate and provide advice or put you in touch with services that might help you within the community.
Memory clinics are easily accessible across the country. Find out more about your local memory support service, here.
What happens when a memory clinic receives your referral?
After reviewing your referral, a member of the clinic or service will contact you, a family member, or your GP for some additional information. This is to ascertain who you need to see, otherwise you will be allocated a Lead Practitioner (not always a nurse).
Afterwards, they will then contact you or your spouse/ family member to arrange an appointment.
What does an assessment entail?
Depending on the information given by your family or GP, you will normally be seen by either a nurse, doctor or psychologist. Your GP might also recommend taking a loved one, family member, or friend with you as the doctor may want to talk to them about your symptoms and recent behaviour.
In the appointment, the person seeing you will discuss any current or past medical problems as well as any memory problems you’ve recently encountered. They may also get you to answer some short tests to check your memory and thinking process. We understand that the idea of doing tests can be very stressful, but it is important to try and do as much as you possibly can. There isn’t a right or wrong answer, and your doctor or nurse isn’t trying to catch you out. They are just trying to understand how you cope.
And, what happens after your assessment?
According to the NHS website, the current time between referral and diagnosis is usually between three to six months. Obviously, in certain situations this can be a little shorter or longer depending on the diagnosis.
Depending on what facilities are available at your memory clinic, you may have other tests either there, or be referred to your nearest hospital’s neuropsychology unit for some further brain scans.
Following these initial tests, you may be asked to come back to the clinic in a few months’ time for more follow-up tests.
If you are diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, then your specialist will move into discussing future treatments, medications and care plans.