Getting help with memory problems
Where can I get help if I am worried about dementia?
If you are worried about yourself or a family member or friend experiencing forgetfulness, the first port of call should always be the GP. This is important because other conditions such as depression, stress, infection or certain blood problems may cause similar, but treatable changes in thinking and behaviour. As well as doing a brief test to assess your memory, the GP can also quickly check your physical health to exclude and treat other causes.
Whilst GP's do not normally make a diagnosis of dementia, as mentioned they will do a brief assessment of memory and thinking. If other causes have been ruled out, then based on the outcome of this test, the GP may just keep an eye on you and see you again in a few months to repeat the tests to see if things have changed, or if indicated, they may refer an individual on to a specialist memory assessment service.
So what is dementia?
Dementia is a descriptive term given to a picture of progressive and sustained decline of mental ability that affects how an individual thinks, feels, sees, experiences and acts in the world. These 'visible' changes or 'signs and symptoms' of dementia include memory loss, communication and perception problems, changes in mood, personality, the ability to cope effectively, and subsequently also changes in behaviour. The visible changes are caused by an underlying disease or altered condition of the brain, with Alzheimer's disease being the most common and well known example, but far from the only cause of dementia.
Dementia most commonly affects older people, and becomes increasingly frequent with increasing age, from 65 years of age onwards. However, dementia is not a normal part of ageing and most people experience healthy ageing without dementia. Whilst comparatively rare, it is important to realise that dementia also affects younger people before the age of 65 years and can be easily missed as people do not necessarily associate dementia with people this age.
In Swindon, Memory Assessment Services are provided by: Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust
What can cause memory problems?
It's happened to all of us at some time or another: you can't put a name to a face, you forget where you put your keys, you can't remember where you parked the car. Most of the time such slips are a nuisance rather than a sign of something more serious. And, of course, some of us have always been more absentminded than others.
But if you are worried that your memory - or that of someone you know - is getting noticeably worse, or if memory problems are beginning to have a knock-on effect on everyday life, it could be an early sign of a medical condition such as dementia.
Although some people might feel scared or embarrassed talking about memory problems, seeing your GP can make all the difference. There are a number of treatable medical conditions that can cause memory problems, and it is important to rule these out as soon as possible.
How to get in touch
If you are worried about your memory you should contact your GP, they should be the first point of call.
For all referrals and general enquiries relating to adult social care you can contact the Adult Social Care team.
Links to fact sheets:
Dementia UK provide a free Admiral Nurse Dementia Expert Helpline for anyone with a question or concern about dementia.
Helpline: 0800 888 6678
Swindon Carers Centre
Swindon Carers Centre provide advice and support for carers.
Tel: 01793 531133
Alzheimer's Society - Swindon & District
Address: Sanford House, Sanford Street, Swindon, SN1 1HE
Phone: 01793 485404
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