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.

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:

Where to find help and support

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

More useful links

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

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