Robby: What can I do to help my concentration and be able to focus better?
Professor Dawn Langdon, Neuropsychologist: Well, there are a number of things. One is, restrict the information overload from the environment. So don’t have the radio on, a difficult conversation with your partner and, you know, the window open and a lot of drilling going on in the road outside. So restrict the information coming in, particularly when it’s something important. If your partner or a friend needs to say something to you to do with a – or a health professional – to do with a big treatment decision and it needs to be very clear and easy, then number one, they should speak slowly, because believe it or not, we’ve shown that if you speak slowly people will remember more, because remember, the information processing speed is a limit. If you break up the important information, so rather than delivering everything about a new drug in five minutes, maybe give one bit of information and then talk about somebody’s walking, give another bit of information and then talk about somebody’s bladder function. Another thing you can do is write things down, and also you can check, the person giving information can check that it’s been understood each time. So you need to recruit your partners, your family, your friends, perhaps your children, and also you need to educate your health professionals that there are ways that they can communicate with you which will support your understanding and recall. And some of the work I’m doing at the moment is about trying to prove and publicise that information.
Robby: Sure. I mean again, the same issue, to speak with a healthcare professional, isn’t it so patronising that you ask them to speak slowly? I mean I would be reticent to ask my…
Professor Dawn Langdon: Okay. Well, no-one should do anything they’re not comfortable with, okay, that’s the first rule of everything, everyday life, everything. But you know, I think most health professionals would be pleased if a person with MS said to them, look, I really want to be part of this, I really want to work with you, I want to work with you to give myself the best chance of a happy and healthy life, and so there are couple of things that would really help me, would you mind if I mentioned them? Now, how many health professionals are going to say, yes I would. And then you say, well look, could you speak slowly and could you break up the important information so that I’ve got the best chance of remembering it and then I can, you know, do my best and not take up more of your time if things go wrong or I have to keep asking you to repeat things at every session. Present it as a positive.
Robby: And, you know, would it be a good idea if you’re seeing a consultant regarding an important decision, like a drug choice or something, to take somebody else with you?
Professor Dawn Langdon: Yes. Take someone with you. You could ask to record the session, you could ask if they’ve got an MS nurse and maybe go over the information afterwards with the MS nurse. You know, it’s part of your care, it’s perhaps the most important part of your care that you are actively involved, you’re fully engaged, that you understand everything that’s happening and you can be a participant in what’s going on.
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Professor Dawn Langdon is Professor of Neuropsychology at Royal Holloway University of London, she is co-chair at BICAMS, her other areas of expertise focus on BRIMMS (benefits and Risks of MS medications. She has been the neuropsychological lead on multiple MS trials in the pharmaceutical industry. She is also a trustee of the UK MS Trust.