• NHS Choices

Worried someone has dementia?

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

Dementia is a group of related symptoms that indicate problems with the brain. One of the most common symptoms of dementia is memory loss.

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 maintain their mental function.

Be aware of the signs of dementia

Memory loss is one of the key symptoms, but others include:

  • increasing difficulty with tasks and activities that require concentration and planning

  • depression

  • changes in personality and mood

  • periods of mental confusion

  • difficulty finding the right words

If you know someone who is experiencing these symptoms, encourage them to see their GP as soon as possible.

Dementia is diagnosed by doctors ruling out other conditions that could cause the symptoms. A GP will run a series of tests and assessments to see if there is an alternative explanation for the problems. The doctor may also want to discuss the problems being experienced to see how they have developed over time.

Read more about the symptoms of dementia and related diseases, and how dementia is diagnosed.

Talking 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, worried or in denial.

To get someone talking when you're worried about their memory, the Alzheimer's Society suggests that you:

  • have the conversation in a familiar, non-threatening environment

  • explain why talking is important and say you're worried because you care

  • use examples to make things clearer: it's important not to create a sense of "blame" – for example, instead of telling someone they couldn't make a cup of tea, you could suggest that they seem to find it difficult to make a cup of tea

  • have an open conversation, and be honest and direct – for example, ask how they're feeling about their memory

  • make a positive plan of action together

You can read more top tips for talking about dementia on the Alzheimer's Society website.

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.

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