Listen up all of you people out there who are living with dementia, especially those of you with early onset dementia!
OK. Hands up if you were initially diagnosed with anxiety and depression and have had Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). I can't quite see you all, but judging by conversations I have had with my peers here in the world of dementia, there are a large percentage of us who are holding up our hands.
The thing is, many people's road to a diagnosis of dementia begins years previously with an earlier diagnosis of "anxiety and depression" (the two always seem to go hand-in-hand in a diagnosis for some reason), so the very first person they see after their G.P. has dispensed a mountain of antidepressants is often the Cognitive Behavioral Therapist with whom they are allocated a number of sessions. I myself had a total of twelve CBT sessions, each one lasting an hour. The therapist was friendly and competent, but I felt that none of what she was describing related to me. I was not feeling the things that the text books said that a person with "depression and anxiety" ought to be feeling. I could tell that the therapist was puzzled. Indeed, I confess that I sometimes pretended to feel some of the things she wanted me to feel just to cheer her up, but it must have been obvious to her that the therapy was not hitting the mark. Now here's my point.
Surely I must have been displaying signs of early onset dementia that could have been picked up by the therapist if they were trained to be on the look out for them? I spent twelve hours in the company of my therapist, answering questions, talking about my past, my present and my future and doing tests. Why didn't they ever stop and think that there might be an alternative reason for the way I presented to my G.P.? Surely my sometimes stilted speech, stuttering and forgetfulness of recent events might have rung a bell? So what can be done?
Please can we ensure that Cognitive Behavioral Therapists are more dementia aware, and can refer patients to neurologists or other dementia professionals for more in-depth investigation.
Can we ensure that their training contains sufficient information on spotting the signs of early onset dementia and that refresher training is given at regular intervals.
I am sure that more people could be diagnosed earlier if the level of dementia awareness was higher in the world of CBT practitioners.