Deaf News: Test for dementia offers hope for BSL users

Posted on June 6, 2012

Deaf people with dementia who use British Sign Language (BSL), have long struggled to obtain a diagnosis and access support, with serious implications for their future quality of life.

Now, with the number of people who suffer from dementia expected to double in the next 30 years, a cognitive test for dementia has been developed for BSL users by researchers at the Deafness, Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre, based at University College London (UCL).

DCAL’s lead researcher for the assessment tests, research psychologist and qualified clinical psychologist Dr Joanna Atkinson said: “The impact of the new tests is huge. It will allow deaf people to be diagnosed with dementia and other brain conditions much earlier. This means they can access medication and support which might otherwise come too late. Hopefully, this will end the era of deaf BSL users receiving a second rate service with late or missed diagnoses.

“The tests will allow more deaf people to be identified which will hopefully lead to service development and better care in future, so that deaf people will at last be on an equal footing with hearing people in terms of access to dementia healthcare”.

Deaf people can now access the tests by being referred by their GP or a hospital specialist to the Cognitive Disorders Clinic at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, London. Here, the new tests are being used as part of a full medical and neuropychological assessment. 

Further information:

The BSL Cognitive Screening Test and BSL Test of Verbal Memory and Learning have been developed as part of the 2010-2012 Deaf with Dementia (DwD) project supported by the Alzheimer’s Society.

The project is a partnership between the University of Manchester (as lead partner), the ESRC Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre at University College London (UCL), City University London and the Royal Association for Deaf people (RAD). DCAL and DCAL associates based at City University London are responsible for the test development.

By Charlie Swinbourne

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