There is a common misconception, not just amongst the general population, but also amongst some health care professionals, that forgetfulness is an inevitable part of the normal ageing process. This, combined with the fear and stigma associated with a diagnosis of dementia, can act as barriers to accessing proper assessment, diagnosis and treatment.
A recent report by the All Parliamentary Group on Dementia, highlighted on the BBC Health website on July 3, says that GPs are often seen as barriers to a diagnosis. Some people have to wait more than a year for an appointment at a memory clinic. It is estimated only 43% of people with the disease have a formal diagnosis. With the assault on NHS budgets in these times of austerity, memory clinics themselves are inevitably facing resource constraints.
The National Dementia Strategy specifically aimed to promote awareness of dementia and facilitate prompt access to best practice Memory Clinics offering expert assessment and treatment. Is it failing in its objective?
There are many benefits to early diagnosis: access to education and support; advance planning; increased safety; and a reduction in misunderstanding and distress. From the medical point of view, early intervention has been demonstrated to improve the overall course of the condition; increase quality of life; stabilise cognition; increase function; and possibly delay the progression from mild cognitive impairment to dementia.
The message couldn’t be clearer – Ageing is inevitable, forgetfulness is not. If you or someone you know notices it, don’t forget to ask for help!