Getting diagnosed with a dementia

If you are worried about your memory or think you may have signs of a dementia, it's important to talk to your GP. A timely diagnosis can help you get the right treatments and find the best sources of support.

How a dementia diagnosis can reduce worry

If you’re worried that you’re showing signs of a dementia, getting a diagnosis can reduce uncertainty.

A diagnosis can explain:

  • what’s causing your condition
  • suitable treatment for your condition

If you're diagnosed with a dementia, it’s helpful to talk to family and friends about your diagnosis. It is also important to find out about help and support available from:

  • health services
  • social services
  • voluntary organisations

Being forgetful

If you are forgetful, it doesn't mean you have dementia. Other health conditions can also cause memory problems. It is important to identify other health problems  and have treatment when necessary.

Seeing your GP about dementia 

If you’re concerned about having a dementia and see your GP, they will usually:

  • ask about your symptoms and your health
  • give you a physical examination
  • organise blood tests
  • ask about any medications you take, as medicine can sometimes cause symptoms similar to dementia
  • ask you some questions or do mental exercises to measure your memory or ability to think clearly

Referral to a dementia specialist 

Dementia can be difficult to diagnose, especially if your symptoms are mild. If your GP is unsure about your diagnosis, they will refer you to a specialist doctor.

Seeing a dementia specialist 

If you go to see a specialist, it can be helpful to:

  • write down questions you want to ask them
  • write down any medical terms the doctor says
  • ask if you can come back if you would like more information
  • get information about any tests they’ll do

The specialist may organise other tests including:

  • a computerised tomography (CT) scan
  • a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan

Getting your dementia diagnosis 

Once you’ve had the necessary tests, your doctor should ask if you want to know your diagnosis.

They should explain what having a dementia might mean for you.  They should also give you time to talk more about the condition and ask questions. 

Unless you decide otherwise, your doctor should discuss with you and your family:

  • the type of dementia you have, or if it is not clear,  how they will investigate further – if a diagnosis may not be clear, the doctors will reassess you after a  certain time
  • symptoms and how the illness might develop
  • appropriate treatments you might be offered
  • care and support services in your area
  • support groups and voluntary organisations for people with a dementia and their families and carers
  • advocacy services
  • where you can find financial and legal advice

They should also give you written information about dementia.

Benefits of an early dementia diagnosis

Dementia is one of the health conditions people are most afraid of. That fear puts people off getting a diagnosis.

An accurate, timely diagnosis of dementia can have many benefits, including:

  • an explanation for symptoms that might have been worrying you or your family
  • access to treatments that can improve symptoms and slow the progress of the disease
  • access to support and advice
  • time to prepare for the future and plan ahead

A dementia diagnosis can come as a shock, but over time people come to view it in a positive way. This is because, while there is currently no cure for dementia, there are ways you can slow it down and maintain your memory function for longer.

With the right support and encouragement, those who have a dementia diagnosis can take an active role in managing their condition.

Asking for more information about your dementia diagnosis 

If you're diagnosed with dementia, you can ask the doctor:

  • which type of dementia you have
  • about tests or investigations you should have
  • how long you'll have to wait until you have the tests
  • how long it will take to get the test results 
  • what will happen after you get the results
     
  • Help and support for people living with a dementia

To read more about living well with dementia, go to the NHS website.

Where to find help and support

You can find more information and support services from the following organisations, see also ‘more useful links section’:

The Public Health Agency has also produced a range of information to help support people with a dementia, their families and friends.

This information includes the following publications:

Dementia apps library

The ‘Apps4Dementia’ library is a digital service which groups together safe, trusted apps to provide information and guidance on the condition.

There a number of apps that offer support, self-care of symptoms and enable users to carry on with their day-to-day activities for as long as possible.

More useful links

The information on this page was adapted from original content by NHS website.

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email:
rating@lpsni.gov.uk

For queries or advice about property valuation, email:
valuation@lpsni.gov.uk

For queries or advice about land registry, email:
CustomerInformation.LandRegistration@finance-ni.gov.uk

For mapping queries, email:
Mapping.Helpdesk@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

If you can’t find the information you’re looking for in the Coronavirus (COVID-19) section, then for queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.