Patients’ accounts of memory lapses in interactions between neurologists and patients with functional memory disorders
journal contributionposted on 25.09.2018, 14:10 by Marc Alexander, Daniel Blackburn, Markus Reuber
One of the most commonly made diagnoses in secondary care memory services is functional memory disorder (FMD). FMD is non‐progressive and characterised by persistent worries about memory failures without objective evidence of cognitive impairment. This study explores how patients with FMD present their memory concerns. Utilizing video recordings of consultations between patients and neurologists in a memory clinic, we show that FMD patients account for their memory deficits as significant disruptions to their daily lives. Resonating with research which identified a dissonance between self‐reports of memory functioning by FMD patients and the outcome of neuropsychological assessments, we demonstrate that, in giving a detailed account of their perceived memory problems, patients provide objective conversational evidence of their cognitive and memory capacity, implicitly undermining the claim of an objective problem. Using conversation analysis, we examine three of the more prominent interactional practices FMD patients draw on when attempting to communicate memory deficits to the doctor – they are (i) contrasts with a standard of ‘normal’; (ii) third‐party observations; and (iii) direct reported speech. These interactional features are recurrent devices for displaying memory concerns as legitimate problems, embedded within patients’ accounts of their day‐to‐day lives.