Diagnosis and Treatment

man and woman looking at a book

Memory problems can have many underlying causes including some physical illnesses. They can be a side-effect of medication or due to stress, tiredness or depression. If these possibilities are considered but ruled out, there are a number of ways to assess your symptoms further.

As a first step, make an appointment to see your GP who will initially chat to you to find more about you and your symptoms, ask how they are affecting your daily life and check to see if they could have other causes. Your GP may carry out some recognised tests to check your thinking and memory. If a family member or someone who knows you well can be there that can be helpful for moral support and to support what you are saying.

Your GP may feel able to make a decision based on their findings or may decide to refer you to a memory clinic or consultant with more specialist knowledge for a fuller assessment. If you believe this would be helpful but the GP does not suggest it, ask if you can be referred as you have a right to ask for a second opinion.

Staff at the memory clinic may want to carry out further tests, including a brain scan, to get a clearer picture that will help them reach a diagnosis.

Difficulty of diagnosis

Making a diagnosis of dementia and confirming which type you have can be very difficult, particularly in the early stages. Each person will experience it in their own way and their condition will progress at a different rate.

If you would like more specialist information, the Alzheimer’s Society provides information on all types of dementia and has a helpline you can call for advice and support. There is also information about dementia in the health A-Z section of the NHS Choices website.

Your consultant should explain his findings and discuss next steps with you and answer any questions you may have.

If you receive a diagnosis, it is important to know who will be responsible for managing your care in the short and long term and who you can contact with any questions or worries. One of the goals in the 2009 National Dementia Strategy, is for you to have a named local Dementia Adviser to help you find the right information, care, support and advice.

Treatment

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued guidance on supporting people with dementia and their carers that includes information about the types of medication that can help manage the symptoms of the various types of dementia at different stages and slow their progression.
NICE has also developed a Quality Standard for Dementia Care. It describes standards that the NHS should be working towards when developing services for people with dementia and their carers. 
You can also find out more about treatment and support on the NHS Choices website. You can also call the Alzheimer's Society helpline on 0300 222 11 22, they may be able to answer questions you have about medication and other treatment and support.

 

Your Age UK

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Age UK Advice:
0800 169 6565

Useful websites

  • The Health A-Z section of this website contains information on the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of many types of illnesses. It also includes video interviews with specialists and patients.

  • The Alzheimer's Society works to improve the quality of life of people affected by dementia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

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