Opinion

Blood test for dementia: would you take it?

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Would you take a blood test that would enable you to predict with 90% certainty whether you will get dementia?

According to reports in the media, US researchers have developed such a test, which examines lipids in the bloodstream and is said to be 90% accurate at predicting Alzheimer’s disease.

My dad developed dementia in his late 70s. His slow decline was painful for me to watch, but he always remained happy, and would tell me, by way of reassurance, that ‘worrying’s just for fools’.

His generation were stoics: he had lived through the Depression in the 1930s, been bombed out of his flat in the Blitz and fought in the ‘forgotten army’ in the Burma campaign in the second world war.

I’m sure if I had asked him he would have said something like: ‘A little touch of dementia doesn’t scare me.’

But I sometimes wonder what he would have done if he had known what was coming in those last few years of his life. Would he have been happy to drift into the twilight zone where he ended up?

It’s true that knowing what’s coming can be a gift, a chance to sort things out; hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

And people with dementia who are looked after with kindness and care can have a very high quality of life.

Even so, I’m not sure I would be brave enough to take the test. I think facing a future knowing that dementia is more or less a certainty would be difficult to live with.

About the author

Colin Parish is editor of Learning Disability Practice and Mental Health Practice, both published by RCNi
@editorLDPandMHP