Orla Bonnar: Visit to memory clinic 29 March 2017

As part of my Alzheimer’s Society funded PhD, I was afforded the opportunity to attend a multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting held by the memory assessment service (MAS) team in Brighton.  The aim of this service is to ‘provide early detection, diagnosis, treatment and care if you have problems associated with dementia’.

The meeting was attended by various members of the team, each with their own unique contribution to patient care.

The first person I met was a memory support worker who explained her role and valuable contribution to the care of local dementia patients. She explained how she visits people with dementia in their own home to assess their needs and provide the support that they require. Her contribution to the meeting allowed the team to make rounded and individualised decisions regarding each patient’s care.

Also present were two specialist general practitioners, a consultant psychiatrist and two specialist nurses. Together they made their way through a long list of local patients who had recently experienced memory problems and had been assessed using various tests such as the MMSE (mini mental state examination). They used each patient’s performance on these tests, combined with their medical history, to diagnose which type of dementia each patient had and which, if any, treatment was most suitable. The team would then make a personalised plan to ensure each patient received appropriate follow up care.

One of the most striking things I noticed was how few of the patients were eligible for pharmacological treatment, further highlighting the need for an increased number of treatment options that are more effective and are suitable for a wider population of patients. As well as this it is incredibly difficult to diagnose patients with the correct type of dementia, emphasising the importance of these skilled and dedicated professionals.

This visit helped to highlight some of the work that is being done to support those experiencing memory problems in the local community. It also made it clear to me that, although I am familiar with biological aspects of the disease, there is a lot to learn about the impact of the condition on the lives of those who are affected as well as those who care for them.

Orla Bonnar is a PhD student working with Dr Catherine Hall,  and funded by the Alzheimer Society as part of the APOE AS DTC at Sussex

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