Worried someone has dementia?

If someone you know is becoming increasingly forgetful, encourage them to see their GP to talk about the early signs of dementia.

There are other reasons someone might be experiencing memory loss. However, if dementia is detected early, in some cases its progress can be slowed, and the person affected may be able to maintain their mental function for longer.

Be aware of the signs of dementia

Although dementia isn't just about memory loss, it's one of the key symptoms. Others include:

  • increasing difficulty with tasks and activities that require concentration and planning
  • changes in personality and mood
  • periods of mental confusion
  • difficulty finding the right words or not being able to understand conversations as easily

You may like to suggest that you accompany your friend or relative to the GP so you can support them. This also means that after the appointment, you can help your friend or relative recall what has been discussed.

Dementia is diagnosed by doctors ruling out other conditions that could cause the symptoms, as well as completing a thorough assessment.

A GP, or a doctor specialising in memory problems, will run a series of tests and assessments to see if there is an alternative explanation for the problems. The doctor will also want to discuss how the problems being experienced have developed over time.

How to talk to someone you think has signs of dementia

Raising the issue of memory loss - and the possibility of dementia - can be a difficult thing to do. Someone who is experiencing these symptoms may be confused, unaware they have any problems, worried or in denial.

Before starting a conversation with someone you're concerned about, the Alzheimer's Society suggests that you ask yourself the following questions:

  • have they noticed the symptoms?
  • do they think their problems are just a natural part of ageing?
  • are they scared about what changes could mean?
  • are you the best person to talk to them about memory problems?
  • do they think there won't be any point in seeking help?

When you do talk to them, choose a place that is familiar and non-threatening. And allow plenty of time so the conversation isn't rushed.

The Alzheimer's Society has more tips on how to talk to someone about memory problems.

If the person is still reluctant to see their GP, find more information in this factsheet about how to persuade your relative to see a doctor (PDF, 848kb).

If the diagnosis is dementia

A dementia diagnosis can come as a shock, but over time some people come to view it in a positive way. This is because a diagnosis is the first step towards getting the information, help and support needed to manage the symptoms.

A diagnosis of dementia can help people with these symptoms, and their families and friends, take control, make plans and prepare for the future.

See useful links below

Dementia Voices – Knowledge is Power booklet

What causes dementia?