An early dementia diagnosis can result in earlier treatment, which for many people can make it easier to live with dementia. There are lots of different ways to slow down the progression and many people with dementia continue to live happy, active lives given access to the right support and information.
If you think a relative or friend may have dementia it is important to approach the subject sensitively – remember that the person may already be feeling anxious and concerned. The person’s GP should be the first port of call. If your friend or relative is reluctant to seek medical help and you are worried about them, you can contact their GP on their behalf.
In the consultation the GP should be able to run through some simple checks to assess the symptoms - and discuss medical and family history. They may also carry out physical tests such as taking blood and urine samples.
The GP may then be able to make a diagnosis, or they may refer the person to a specialist for example, a neurologist, an elderly care physician, or a psychiatrist with experience of treating dementia. Who the person sees will depend on their age, how physically able they are and what services are available in their local area.
Similarly to the GP appointment, the specialist consultation will usually involve a blood test and a full physical examination. The person’s memory will be assessed and their thinking skills considered in more detail. A brain scan may also be carried out to give some clues about the changes taking place.
The time it takes to get a diagnosis of dementia can vary. There are often waiting lists of around 4-12 weeks for brain scans and a 6-12 month period of monitoring may be required if the dementia is in the very early stages. Currently, only 44% of people with dementia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive a diagnosis, a figure that the Government and many charities are currently acting to improve upon.