What should I do if I think a loved one may have dementia?
If you believe that a family member or friend is becoming increasingly forgetful, it’s a good time to get a doctor’s appointment. Don’t ignore potential warning signs or wait until there is a crisis.
The symptoms you’ve noticed could just be ordinary age-related changes. Or they might not. It’s important to find out one way or the other, so the appropriate action can be taken.
Book an Appointment
Encouraging your loved on to book an appointment with their GP as soon as they can will help rule out other conditions. However, it’s important to note that some patients that are on strong medication may experience similar symptoms to dementia such as memory loss or confusion.
It can be a very tough time for someone who’s experiencing symptoms of dementia, so giving them reassurance and remaining calm throughout is important.
It’s also helpful if you prepare for the appointment by detailing everything you’ve noticed about possible behavioural changes – i.e. when you first noticed it, what other medication they may be on, and important lifestyle changes.
How is dementia diagnosed?
Dementia can be very difficult to diagnose, especially if symptoms are mild. If someone close to you is experiencing significant memory loss, confusion or showing signs of behavioural changes, it’s best to book an appointment with your local GP for an assessment. This will help to rule out other possible conditions.
Testing for Dementia
There is no single test for dementia. In the first instance, your doctor will organise a blood test to rule out certain causes and check the medication you’re currently taking to ensure this isn’t affecting your behaviour.
A GP will then refer the patient on to a specialist such as a consultant who will have more knowledge and experience of dementia diagnosis.
Patients are likely be given questionnaires to fill in to test their mental abilities and exercise memories. A MMSE assessment may then be used. This consists of a series of questions which can help diagnose dementia, as well as helping to assess its progression and severity. The MMSE tests a number of mental abilities, including memory, attention and language.
Finally, dementia cannot be completely diagnosed without a scan of the brain to rule out other conditions such as brain tumours or head injuries. This is a painless procedure, which involves the patient lying down for a long period of time whilst an image of the brain is captured.
What should I do if I think I may have dementia?
Your first port of call if you are experiencing symptoms of dementia is to book an appointment with your local GP so that all other conditions can be ruled out. Some patients that are on strong medication may experience similar symptoms to dementia, such as memory loss or confusion, or there may be a physical cause.
Talk to Someone
Always confide in a friend or family member, as they may have disregarded certain behavioural changes that could indicate early signs of dementia. Having their support throughout diagnosis is so important.
It can be a scary time if you think you may have dementia, so the key is to act quickly to avoid any undue worry and stress. Don’t wait. The earlier you get proper medical care, the better you’ll feel.
If you’re not satisfied with a doctor’s diagnosis, it’s important to get a second opinion.