Monday, 28 March 2011

Britain is a Country where a debate is taking place about whether or not to test old men for dementia

First some lighthearted stuff with Tom Rush singing 'The Remember Song' :

Now the serious stuff with the 'Alzheimer's Society' asking the question :

Should Britain's old men and women, at the age of 75, get a test for dementia, a condition which will affect their brain and its abilities, including memory, thinking, language skills, understanding and judgement ?
A tug-of-war is going on between :

* Suzanne Sorensen, 'Head of Research' at the Society, who has said :

"We know that there are 720,000 people living with dementia in Britain at the moment and we know that less than half of them get a diagnosis at an appropriate time" and admits the psychological tests for dementia are : "not ideal, but it's the best we've got."

And :

* Dr Anne Mackie, 'Programme Director of the National Screening Committee', which advises Government Ministers and the Health Service who has said that :

* the initial check is not yet reliable enough and is "not ready for a screening programme. We haven't got a good enough test which has been used in big asymptomatic populations, that is people with no symptoms. We don't know how it would perform, how accurate it would be. That's important because we need to know how many people would be told they are risk of developing dementia - and how many people would be told that when it's not true - and how many people would be told they don't have a risk, when they do."

Suzanne counters by saying that :

* she believes the tests are around 85% accurate, which is in the same range as breast cancer testing and "Nobody would argue that people shouldn't be screened for these conditions, so we think it is a good time to start a debate for a process that might increase the likelihood of people with dementia getting a diagnosis at an appropriate time."

Professor Clive Ballard, the Charity's 'Director of Research', has proposed that :

* that people be offered a cognitive test at the GP surgery, with questions on time, date, place, memory and understanding which would be backed up by an interview with a relative or carer.

* where dementia is suspected, patients would be referred to a specialist for a full clinical assessment and if they were then diagnosed , there may be drug treatment and changes in lifestyle which could help delay deterioration and would allow an opportunity to plan ahead.

So, Old Men of Britain : To test or not to test you, that is the question.

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