What happens when you are first diagnosed

What happens when you are first diagnosed

If your GP or another healthcare professional thinks that you have problems with your memory, with language, or with planning daily activities, you may be offered a memory test at a memory clinic. If tests show that you do have a problem, you should be offered additional tests to look for signs of dementia so that care can be planned at an early stage.

It can sometimes be difficult to tell whether a person has dementia. If your doctor thinks that you have the condition, you should be offered further tests of your memory, your ability to pay attention and concentrate, and your use of language. You should also be offered other tests, for example:

  • a brain scan called a CT or MRI scan (other types of scan may also sometimes be used if the diagnosis is unclear)

  • a physical examination and other tests.

If you are tested for possible dementia, your doctor should ask you if you wish to know the diagnosis and which relatives or carers should be told.

Finding out you have dementia can be extremely upsetting for you and your family. Your doctor should explain what having dementia might mean. He or she should offer you further support and advice if you want to talk more about the condition.

When you are first diagnosed with dementia, and regularly after that, your doctor should talk to you about any physical illnesses or other mental health problems you may have so that you can be helped with these as well.

Your doctor should check whether you have other conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, whether you are very overweight or have high cholesterol levels, and whether you smoke or drink a lot of alcohol. You should be offered treatment and help for any of these.

Questions you might like to ask about finding out what is wrong (diagnosis)

  • Please tell me about the type of dementia that I may have.

  • Please give me more details about the tests or investigations I should have.

  • How long will I have to wait until I have these tests?

  • How long will it take to get the results of these tests?

  • What will happen after I get the results?