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DoCare pilots memory assessment tool

Older people in Gloucestershire concerned about their memory could now have access to a new service which is being piloted in the county.

Homecare provider DoCare has teamed up with Cambridge Cognition, the leading UK developer of neuropsychological tests, to offer the free touch screen-based assessment to DoCare’s clients to take in their own home, as well as other elderly people in the county through a link-up with GPs' surgeries.  

The assessment helps spot early memory problems, detection of which provides information to GPs to be considered when making a diagnosis. While memory problems might have a number of explanations, older people can be concerned that they might be an early sign of dementia.

DoCare is offering the service to its clients and is planning to extend the scheme to some of the county's GPs' surgeries and day care centres, running a drop-in service based at the practice or centre. Already, one surgery has expressed interest in offering the service and discussions are taking place with several others.

This is the first time the assessment – called CANTABmobile, which is carried out on an iPad – will be delivered by support workers. Until now it has been largely used by health care professionals, such as GPs. However, given its simplicity to use, the companies believe they can reach a larger proportion of the elderly population, thereby making greater strides in early detection of memory problems and to diagnosis of their cause by a doctor.

If a doctor diagnoses dementia, DoCare can provide help through its dedicated support services. Many of its staff undergo special dementia care training and one of its area managers, Kerry-Ann Lees, was named Dementia Carer of the Year at the Great British Care Awards in June.

"We were very excited when we heard about CANTABmobile and were keen to offer this service, as we want to do all we can to assist people with memory impairment and, just as importantly, provide doctors with information that can help with the early detection of dementia," said Steve Mills, Managing Director of Stroud-based DoCare. "We’ve contacted all our clients, explaining about CANTABmobile. We are also in talks with some of the county's surgeries and day centres to see how we can offer the service to their patients and clients by setting up drop-in sessions.

"The first port of call for anyone with serious concerns must always be their GP. We see this service as a way of supporting and supplementing the excellent work the county’s health care professionals already do around the issue of dementia."

The ten-minute assessment takes the form of a game and is carried out on an iPad. Kerry-Ann and a colleague have been trained by Cambridge Cognition to deliver the service. The results are immediately compared to a database of more than 5,000 people, so that an evaluation can be made as to whether a person's memory is 'normal' for their age, gender and level of education.

The results are discussed with the client, and if there are any concerns then the client can raise them with their doctor who can then decide to initiate further investigation, since it is important to rule out other factors that may be affecting a person’s memory. DoCare can of course support them with this consultation if requested, as they currently do with many conditions that require ongoing medical supervision.

Steve said: "It's been shown that early detection of the issue is vital in helping people with memory loss and, if dementia is the cause, with dealing with the consequences of dementia. It won’t stop the disease, but it gives the person time to learn new skills and habits and may help minimize the impact of the symptoms."

He added: "Many people suffering with memory impairment don't get to the doctor or are put off by the thought of taking a test. We enjoy a trusted relationship with our clients which means that, in collaboration with family and other carers, we can gently encourage them to take this assessment as a first step to see whether they should make a visit to their GP for any further investigation."

Chief Scientific Officer at Cambridge Cognition Dr Andrew Blackwell said:

"We are delighted to be working with DoCare in this important pilot – their credentials in the care of the elderly are recognised within the country, as their recent national award shows. We hope that this service will ensure that more people get their memory problems assessed early, so that they can be directed via their GP to the right care and provision for their diagnosis."

Anyone from the area who would like to take the test can get in touch with DoCare on 0333 700 0333. Surgeries or day centres wanting to participate in the pilot should also contact DoCare.

For more information about CANTABmobile visit www.camcog.com.