How dementia is diagnosed?
If you are worried about dementia or you are concerned about your memory it is always a good idea to contact your GP. If you know somebody who you think may have dementia or your are worried about them, you should also encourage them to see their GP. Being forgetful or having memory problems does not necessarily mean somebody has dementia – this can also be caused by depression, stress, drug side effects, or other health problems. However, it is just as important to rule out these other problems or treat them.
Be aware that there are many reasons for memory loss apart from dementia (such as depression). However, the earlier help is sought the better as a diagnosis is always helpful in planning for the future and with treatment and support many people with dementia can continue to live an active and fulfilling life.
Visit your GP about Dementia
During a visit to your GP they will ask about your symptoms and other aspects of your health, which will encompass giving you a physical examination. The GP will also organise blood tests and ask about any medications you may be taking as these can impact upon memory. You may also be asked some general questions or be given mental exercises.
Referral to a Dementia Specialist
You may then be referred to a local memory clinic or specialist for assessment where a formal diagnosis can take place. If a specialist is involved, this may be a geriatrician, a neurologist or a psychiatrist. A number of tests will be carried out to check basic thinking processes and the ability to perform daily tasks, and sometimes further tests may be requested such as a brain scan or a more in-depth assessment of memory, concentration and thinking skills.
A Diagnosis of Dementia
If a person is diagnosed with dementia they will be provided with the following information:
- the type of dementia you have, or if it is not clear, what the plan to investigate further will be
- details about symptoms and how the illness might develop
- appropriate treatments that you might be offered
- care and support services in your area
- support groups and voluntary organisations for people with dementia and their families and carers
- advocacy services
- where you can find financial and legal advice
Ongoing Dementia Assessments
Following a diagnosis your doctor will arrange to see you regularly – typically every 6 months or 1 year. This is because dementia is a progressive condition and it is important to understand how you are coping and the support you are receiving. The doctor may also wish to prescribe medications to help with the symptoms of dementia.