A diagnosis of dementia can be different for everyone. This helpful guide aims to show what is involved in the process.

  • Some people, when concerned about dementia, may talk to family members or friends first about their worries. However, the best place to go if you are having concerns is to your GP. A GP will be able to conduct an initial assessment and explain to you what is involved in the process, whilst covering any questions you may have.
  • When you call your surgery, explain what the appointment is for and ask for a longer session if possible. This will give you have time to talk about your worries without feeling under pressure. Make sure you see the GP or nurse in person, not via phone or video call.
  • If you would prefer to have someone with you to support you at your appointment, arrange this in advance. Having someone with you can be beneficial as they can take down any notes for you if you are feeling overwhelmed.
  • Try to choose a time and day when the surgery may be quieter if you find noisy waiting rooms stressful.
  • Make notes before your appointment about the things you want to say and any questions you want to ask.
  • The Alzheimer’s Society provides a printable symptom checklist on their website that you can fill in and take to your appointment, helping you to clearly communicate your symptoms.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get to the appointment so you do not feel rushed.
  • Once at the appointment, you will be able to discuss your symptoms and how they are impacting your everyday life. The GP or nurse will check your memory and thinking using standardised tests, as well as doing any physical examinations and blood tests if required. Your symptoms could be caused by something else, so it is always good to have some thorough tests conducted to rule other conditions out first.
  • Once the tests are complete, your GP will explain the results to you and whether they believe you need to be referred for further tests.
  • Your GP may refer you to a specialist local memory service or other specialist if they believe you have dementia.
  • They may not refer you if they believe your symptoms are caused by a different condition. If you are not referred but still concerned, ask more questions, such as what to do if your symptoms worsen or if you have any new symptoms. You can still ask to be referred to a specialist if you want reassurance that the GP’s diagnosis is correct, or you want a second opinion.
  • There are support lines you can call whilst you are waiting for referral or if you still have concerns, such as the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Support Line on 0333 150 3456.
  • Once referred to a specialist, you will have more cognitive tests conducted and may have a brain scan to check for any signs of changes to the brain structure.
  • Once the tests are complete, the results will be discussed with you, and you will be guided to the support you will need for your future care.

The process of diagnosis can vary from a few weeks to more than a year for some individuals, depending on the complexities of each case. Therefore, it is always better to raise any concerns as soon as you notice them, rather than wait.

The sooner the diagnosis is made, the quicker treatment plans can be put in place to help manage the symptoms and help you to live your life in the best way you can.