There is one mood that the press enjoys above all others, and that is hysteria.
Journalists who miss the opportunity to alchemise a fragment of information from ho-hum to OHMYACTUALGOD risk on the spot dismissal within most media organisations.
Exhibit A is the weather, especially where the prospect of snow causing total national collapse is concerned.
Exhibit B is early warning of exotic plague, such as bird flu, swine flu or Ebola, sent to sweep humanity from the fat little face of the planet.
There is plenty of other evidence. Indeed, so conditioned is the populace to the phenomenon, that when public figures begin to warm to a theme, large groups of people willingly apply the hysteria themselves.
For example, now that Prime Minister May’s indecision over health care funding has started a thread of indignation regarding a “Dementia Tax”, the mere appearance of the word “dementia” in headlines has caused large numbers of people to speculate “Am I demented? (Because I think I might be.)”
The press, ever alert to meeting people’s fundamental right to have their panic stoked like the furnaces on the Lusitania, willingly supply stories of people suffering from early-onset Alzheimers. Sometimes they are younger than the age of the reader.
And given that the average age of the reader of many British newspapers is somewhere in their sixties, younger even than their children.
“I was unable to remember the name of that chap who used to be in that programme, the name of which also escapes me,” thinks Person A. “I couldn’t find my keys for the life of me the other day,” thinks Person B, “until my neighbour pointed out they were on my head all along.”
Person C chips in with a chilling anecdote about making a cup of tea but neglecting to first boil the water, until as one they exhale “Alzheimer’s!”
Amazingly, no one seems to forget that particular word.
Having self-diagnosed severe mental impairment, the next step in traditional medicine is to turn to the internet for confirmation.
According to the website of the Alzheimer’s Society, alzheimers.org.uk, there is no one test to determine if someone has dementia, whatever Buzzfeed or Listverse or your preferred source of scientific intel says.
Saint Peacock, however, and with the greatest respect to the medical profession, disagrees.
For while there may not be one test, there are a couple of tests that doctors set for patients suspected of dementia, before they move on to observation of the patient’s mood, insertion of patient in scanning device, and so on.
One of these is called the “mini-cog” in which the candidate is asked to remember three common objects and recall them a few minutes later, and also draw a clock face, with the numbers in the right order and the hands showing a time given by the doctor.
The other is called the “Mini-mental state exam” and includes questions or requests such as “Write any complete sentence”, “Name the months of year backward, starting with December” and “What day of the week is it?”
Clearly, these questions are designed to make it clear to everyone involved just how far along the path of illness a person has progressed, rather than “reveal” a condition.
And given the ease with which the vast majority of people would cope with such a challenge, even with weighting that takes into account downward pressures on scores such as the gravitational pull of social media, then there is a very simple test people can take to rule out their suffering from dementia.
It is this: if you made it to the end of this piece, you don’t have it.