Dementia warning for Highland residents

As many as 3000 people are living with dementia in the Highland Council area but hundreds of them don’t know they have the condition.

Experts speaking at a conference on dementia taking place in Inverness say that means many people are missing out on treatment, support and opportunities to make choices about the care they receive.

NHS Highland’s figures show just over 1700 people have been diagnosed with the condition.

Karen Watchman from Stirling University’s Dementia Services Development Centre said: “While we can’t yet stop or cure dementia there are treatments that can improve a person’s condition, giving them a better quality of life for longer, if they are diagnosed early. They can also make decisions about how they want to be cared for in future and to grant power of attorney to a trusted relative or friend. Early diagnosis opens doors to a more individual approach to care.”

To encourage more people to seek help if they are worried about their memory NHS Highland is changing how it organises appointments.

Inverness, Invergordon and Golspie are pioneering the use of “memory clinics” where patients over 70 can speak to a psychiatrist and a nurse to discuss their concerns and, if required, they’ll be referred for tests.

The patient can also be referred to social work for home care if appropriate. This way of delivering the service should speed up the process of getting answers for people worried about their memory.

Staff are also being trained to provide Cognitive Stimulation Therapy.

CST is an evidence based intervention provided to groups of patients.

They take part in structured activities, twice a week, aimed at stimulating various aspects of brain function which research suggests strengthen and improve their ability to concentrate and remember.

Studies show the benefits of a seven week course of CST last up to a year.

NHS Highland’s Mental Health Collaborative Programme Manager Lynda Forrest says, “It’s understandable why someone worried about memory loss might put off having it investigated but in reality early diagnosis means a better quality of life for longer. Reading, driving, socialising can all be extended if someone is diagnosed early.

Dementia is an increasingly common illness and has touched the lives of most of us already. This conference encourages people who work in the health and caring professions, patients and carers to recognise that we all have a role in coping with dementia. It challenges us as patients, family, friends and professionals.”