Assessment of Memory Problems

Memory Problems & Ageing

Many people notice that as they grow older they become more forgetful; for instance in misplacing items, forgetting names of people or things, confusion with dates or wondering why they went into a room.  Many of these changes are common in normal ageing eg 'senior moments'. 

It is also very common for memory to be affected by stress, mood or anxiety problems.  This also can cause worry about memory performance.

In some people, however, memory problems can become more noticeable and can cause concern for them or their family.  At these times, it can be important to distinguish between normal age-related memory lapses, mood related memory problems and those related to possible underlying organic causes such as dementia.

Risk factors which may predispose individuals to memory problems include: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, heavy alcohol use, a previous head injury or more rarely a family history of dementia.

Most people in the early stages of dementia will not notice the subtle changes or will attribute them to normal ageing.  They are not that different from normal everyday memory lapses and may include difficulty finding words, forgetting names or phone numbers, forgetting conversations and details of recent events, losing items, becoming a little more confused and subtle personality changes such as a reduction in motivation or an increase in apathy.


Why Have an Assessment?

An assessment can rule out conditions that may have symptoms similar to dementia but can be treated such as depression or health problems.  Also it can rule out if poor memory is related to stress, anxiety or emotional upsets.  It may be particularly relevant to have an assessment if your doctor has not found any health problems but the memory difficulties persist.  If memory problems that may be related to a dementia are identified after a neuropsychology assessment, then this can be used when consulting with a GP or neurologist to discuss possible treatment.  There are now medications that can be used for some types of dementia which may slow the deterioration of memory.  Therefore, it can be important that a diagnosis is made as soon as possible. 

Furthermore, being aware of an organic memory problem can mean accessing timely and appropriate advice in regards to emotional, practical and financial support.  It can also allow the person with dementia to plan and make arrangements for their future. 

What Will the Assessment Provide?

Having a full neuropsychology assessment from a Neuropsychologist will provide a detailed profile of your memory and other cognitive functioning.  This can provide reassurance if there is nothing wrong.  Neuropsychology assessments are very sensitive at picking up the first signs of memory problems and while they can not provide a firm diagnosis of dementia, they can indicate if further medical investigations are necessary.  A full report will be provided which clearly outlines any difficulties which can be given to your GP, neurologist or other specialist.  Advice about strategies to assist a poor memory and increasing forgetfulness can also be given.

A full neuropsychological assessment involves an interview, possibly also with a close informant, and the administration of a range of tests that look at such things as memory, concentration, and other thinking skills.  This can take about three hours.  A written report is provided, and a session providing verbal feedback on test performance can also be in addition; something that my clients have generally found very valuable.

Assessments can be carried out at my offices in central London, or a home visit can be arranged if there is a suitable quiet room available.