Frequently Asked Questions – ADNeT Memory Clinics

What is a memory and cognition clinic?

Memory and cognition clinics are specialist services that provide a detailed medical
assessment of people who experience changes in their memory and/or thinking

These services may also be known as memory clinics, cognitive disorder clinics,
cognitive assessment clinics, cognitive dementia or memory services (CDAMS).
Memory and cognition clinics will have access to a range of health professionals who
will contribute towards a comprehensive assessment. Due to this comprehensive
assessment, even small changes in memory and thinking can be picked up on. This
can help to diagnose dementia in its early stages, which will allow to better manage
the disease and maximise the quality of life.

The assessment provided by a memory and cognition will show whether the person
has dementia or mild cognitive impairment (an early stage of memory and/or thinking
ability loss). If a person receives a diagnosis of dementia or mild cognitive
impairment, the clinic will develop a personalised care plan. A care plan is a written
document that contains information related to your diagnosis, disease management,
and the post-diagnostic support recommendations.

How can I make an appointment at a memory and cognition clinic?

A referral from a general practitioner (GP) is usually required to get an appointment at a memory and cognition clinic.

If you have any concerns about your memory and thinking, or the memory and thinking of your family member or friend, please visit a GP for an initial assessment (for yourself or your family member/friend). If required, your GP will offer a referral to a memory and cognition clinic.

How long do I have to wait before I am seen at a memory and cognition clinic?

While some clinics can offer appointments straight away, most public clinics are have long waiting lists.
The Australian Dementia Network (ADNeT) Memory and Cognition Guidelines recommend a maximum waiting time of 90 days, but not all clinics will be able to offer an appointment within this time. In urgent circumstances, the clinic will try offer an appointment within 30 days. Examples of urgent circumstances are if the client is a carer for young children or is at a risk of abuse.

The impact of COVID-19 has meant that many clinics have been operating at a reduced capacity during the past years. This has also contributed to the long waiting lists.

Is there anything I can do while I wait for my appointment?

Clinic staff understand that waiting for a medical assessment can be frustrating.
While waiting for your first appointment, you can expect to receive the following information from the clinic to prepare for your appointment:

  • Information on the nature and purpose of your upcoming assessment
  • Approximate waiting times and explanations of potential delays (if known)
  • Costs and appointment duration
  • Location, parking, and availability of public transport
  • What to bring to the appointment

The exact information you receive may vary from clinic to clinic.
During the waiting period, you may also be asked to complete some first assessments like blood testing or brain scans. These will either be organised by your GP or requested by the memory and cognition clinic, where they will provide instructions on obtaining them. The results of these tests and scans will help the clinicians in their assessment.

What should I do if I am anxious about my first appointment?

Please contact the clinic if you feel anxious during the waiting period and would like to see an experienced counsellor.
Alternatively, you can call the following services:

  • Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
  • National Dementia Helpline: 1800 100 500
  • Alzheimer’s Western Australia’s Support Services (for people residing in WA): 1300 667 788

These organisations will be able to provide support and advice while you are waiting for an assessment, independent of the diagnosis you might receive.

What should I do if I am anxious about my first appointment?

You can expect to find out your results as soon as all the assessments are completed and analysed. This might take a few weeks.

Most memory and cognition clinics will arrange an appointment with you to talk about your assessment results. This is typically a longer appointment to give you time to start to process the information and to ask questions.

Please ask your clinician for a break or an additional appointment to continue discussing the diagnosis if you need more time. You can also bring a support person (e.g. a family member or a friend) to this appointment.