“One more question,” is now a regular parting shot from the son or daughter of a patient I have just diagnosed with dementia. It is dropped in just as they are about to leave – almost an afterthought.
Typically, we have spent the last hour painting a picture of the road ahead for the family: the trauma of shifting from the role of a grownup child to one of a carer, a succession of losses, and ultimately the fading of the person they had once known.
In the past, the stunned family may have silently filed out, deep in thought. But now we tend to stand by the door, opening a new conversation. “What can I do to not get this?”
It is difficult to overstate the opportunity for dementia research that is contained within this repeated question. Researchers have long recognised the value of treating dementia in its “pre-clinical” phase. But it is difficult to conduct clinical studies in people with few or no symptoms. To do so, you need reliable tests to detect pre-clinical dementia and you need to monitor the effects of the treatments being tested.
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