Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust: Healthcare from the heart of your community

Dementia

It is natural to worry when you notice changes in your memory or how well your brain is functioning. Problems such as stress, depression or simply getting older can affect thought processes. Having an assessment by an experienced professional can help identify what might be causing the difficulty and whether it can be treated.

Dementia may be caused by one or more conditions or illnesses that damage the brain. It is a progressive condition which means that it usually gets gradually worse over time and starts to affect more areas of functioning. It is a common condition affecting about 800,000 people in the UK. Approximately 17,000 of those will be under 65 in age and are considered young onset or younger people with dementia.

We provide community memory clinic services to assess memory, communication and thinking problems and to support people diagnosed with dementia in their everyday life.

What is dementia and what are the symptoms?

Dementia is the name given to the process of losing mental abilities over time. People most often notice a deterioration in memory, but changes may occur in many other areas. These include difficulties with reasoning and judgement, speech and communication, mood or personality. There may also be problems with carrying out day to day tasks such as driving, managing your home, finances and looking after yourself. There are many causes of dementia - Alzheimer’s Disease, Vascular Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia , and Frontotemporal dementia being the most common.

You can read about other symptoms of dementia here.

If you or one of your friends or relatives have recently been diagnosed with dementia, the Alzheimer's Society provide a very helpful 'dementia guide'.

How we help you

Our Memory Services (sometimes known as Memory Clinics) provides both clinic and home-based services in your local area, depending on your individual needs.

Your GP will initially do some tests to find out if there could be other causes for your symptoms. If required you will then be referred to our Memory Services so that we can work with you to investigate the problem further.

Our teams are made up of a number of professionals that may include psychiatrists, psychologists, specialist nurses, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and support workers. You will usually be invited to an appointment with one of our specialists to discuss the problem and have further tests done. This can sometimes be completed in the first appointment but may take two or more appointments. If you are diagnosed with dementia, you will be offered advice on coping with the condition and, for some conditions, treatment such as medication is available. Memory training groups such as Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) can be helpful and an education course is available to the families of people with dementia so that they can learn how best to help. We also provide a written information pack.

Specialist assessment and support may also be offered, for example to help with anxiety problems or to encourage you to get involved with other services. We work alongside charities such as the Alzheimer’s Society to direct you to suitable local support and activities. Younger People with Dementia (YPWD Berkshire West) is a charity that supports younger people (under 65) and their families in the west of the county and also provide the services of an Admiral Nurse specifically to support the families of younger people with dementia.

Being admitted to a general hospital can be a particularly distressing experience for people with dementia. If you are over 65 and are admitted to a general hospital with evidence of memory impairment or dementia, you may be assessed by the Older People's Mental Health Liaison Team. They provide a rapid response assessment, consultation and liaison service to support patients in acute hospitals. We also host a Care Home In-reach Team of specialist physical health and mental health nurses to support care homes in the west of the county with managing patients with dementia.

We are actively engaged in research and you will be offered the opportunity to be contacted about suitable studies, for example assessing or treating memory problems. This is entirely optional. Many patients and their families find this a thoroughly rewarding experience.

Need more information?

You can download our Dementia for carers handbook.

What is dementia?
Information about causes and treatments of dementia

The Alzheimer's Society guide to dementia
Detailed information and advice for anyone recently diagnosed with dementia