Dementia is a collection of symptoms that result from damage to the brain. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's Disease.
As we get older we are more likely to get dementia, but it can affect people in their 50s and 60s. This is often called 'early onset dementia'.
Typically, the condition may start with memory loss and include symptoms such as mood changes, problems with communication and reasoning, difficulty with tasks that require organisation and planning, and becoming confused in unfamiliar environments.
The early symptoms are often mild and it may take some time before they become severe.
The Barnet Dementia Pathway
Dementia affects nearly half a million people in the UK. There are an estimated 4,000 people in Barnet who have dementia.
The Dementia Manifesto for Barnet (PDF) sets out how Barnet Council and Barnet Clinical Commissioning Group (BCCG) will work, with partners, to ensure that people with dementia and their carers receive the care and support they need.
In Barnet we have an integrated 'care pathway' to help people who have dementia and their families.
The pathway aims to ensure continuity of care as the individual's needs change. It includes:
- initial diagnosis by the Memory Assessment Service (MAS)
- advice and support from a Dementia Advisor
- support in the community
- care at home or in residential homes, including homes which are registered to care for people with dementia
- end of life nursing.
GPs, adult social services, hospitals and voluntary services in Barnet work together to ensure people with dementia and their families get the most appropriate support when they need it.
How to get help for dementia
If you think you may have memory loss (or you care for someone showing signs of memory loss) you should tell your GP.
It may not be clear what the cause is but your GP is the first port of call for help in understanding this.
Memory Assessment Service (MAS)
If, after initial consultation, the GP feels further investigation is required s/he will refer you to the Barnet Memory Assessment Service (MAS) based at the Springwell Centre at Barnet Hospital.
The Barnet Memory Service team comprises specialist doctors, nurses, occupational therapists and psychologists.
It provides assessment, diagnosis and treatment for people who are experiencing difficulties with their memory and can assess the cause and level of problem with memory.
The team aims to see you within six weeks of receiving the referral.
What happens at the assessment
You'll be asked about your mental and physical health, and may be asked to complete a number of activities and tasks designed to assess memory and recall. You may also be referred for a head scan and be asked to have some blood tests.
The overall results of these tests enable the team to determine the reason for your memory problem.
At the end of the assessment there may be a number of outcomes:
- you may receive a diagnosis of a memory problem (such as dementia) and treatment options will be discussed with you.
- it may not be possible to make a definite diagnosis and the team may ask you to come back in 9-12 months for a review. You can ask to be re-referred to the service by your GP. The assessment may suggest that you do not have a memory problem and you will be discharged and directed to other services where appropriate.
What happens if there's a diagnosis of dementia
If you are diagnosed with a memory problem the MAS will talk to you about the following:
- treatments which may slow down the progression of the illness
- counselling, education and support to help you and your family to understand and manage the illness
- services available to people with dementia and their families, including the Dementia Advisor.
Barnet Dementia Advisor
The Dementia Advisor is there to give newly diagnosed people and their families the space and time they need to consider the implications of the diagnosis and to begin planning ahead.
They offer a very flexible service to meet individual needs and preferences. For example, they can make appointments to see you at somewhere convenient for you, and you can choose to see them at the point of diagnosis or at a later date.
The Dementia Advisor can offer one-to-one information, advice and support to help you develop an individual support plan to meet your specific needs. They can discuss what can be done to help you take control and seek help where necessary to continue to lead a fulfilling life. This includes putting you in touch with or helping you get help with specialist advice on legal or financial matters, community and peer support and social and health care provision.
You can contact the Advisor at any time in the future to review the plan to make sure it still meets your needs.
Support from the council
People with dementia may qualify for adult social care support, fully or part-funded by Barnet Council.
For further information, contact Social Care Direct on 0208 359 5000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Support in the community
Alzheimer's Society Barnet offers a wide range of guidance and support for people with dementia and their families:
It holds regular local Dementia Cafés for people with dementia and their carers to meet with others and share experiences and tips. The Cafés offer activities, games, talks and discussion in a relaxed social setting. Alzheimer's Society staff are on hand with advice and information.
Singing for the Brain - these fun sessions help people build on their memory for song and music. Even when other memories are hard to retrieve, music is easy to recall.
Support for carers of people with dementia including:
- one-to-one or group counselling sessions
- social activities
- short programmes to find out more about the condition and how to manage it.