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Worried someone has dementia?

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

There are other reasons why someone might be experiencing memory loss. However, if dementia is found early, its progress can be slowed down in some cases, so the person may be able to maintain their mental function for longer.

Be aware of the signs of dementia

Although dementia is not only about memory loss, that's one of the main signs.

Some of the other signs of dementia include:

  • increasing difficulty with tasks and activities that require concentration and planning
  • changes in personality and mood
  • periods of mental confusion
  • difficulty finding the right words or not being able to understand conversations as easily

You may like to suggest you go with your friend or relative to see a GP so you can support them. You'll also be able to help them recall what has been discussed.

A GP will ask how the symptoms have developed over time. They may also do a memory test and physical examination. Blood tests may be done to check if the symptoms are being caused by another condition.

If other causes can be ruled out, the GP may refer your friend or relative to a memory clinic, or other specialist service, where they may have more assessments to confirm whether they have dementia.

Read more about how dementia is diagnosed.

How to talk to someone you think has signs of dementia

Talking about memory loss, and the possibility of dementia, can be difficult. Someone who is experiencing these symptoms may be confused, unaware they have any problems, worried, or struggling to accept their condition.

Before starting a conversation with someone you're concerned about, the Alzheimer's Society suggests you ask yourself:

  • what could be stopping them from seeing their GP about their memory problems?
  • have they mentioned their memory problems?
  • do they think their problems are just a natural part of ageing?
  • are they scared about what their symptoms could mean for their future?
  • do they think there will not be any point in seeking help?
  • are you the best person to talk to them about memory problems?
  • would they find it reassuring if you offer to go to their GP with them?

When you do talk to them, choose a place that is familiar and not threatening. Also, allow plenty of time so the conversation is not rushed.

The Alzheimer's Society has more tips on how to talk to someone about memory problems.

If the person does not want to see a GP, many UK dementia charities offer support and advice from specialist nurses or advisers, such as:

If the diagnosis is dementia 

A dementia diagnosis can be a shock, but it's the first step towards getting the information, help and support that's needed to manage their symptoms.

A diagnosis of dementia can also help people with these symptoms, and their families and friends, make plans so they're prepared for the future.

Read more about what to do if you've just been diagnosed with dementia.

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Video: Living with dementia

This video provides advice, help, and support for people suffering from dementia and their carers.

Media last reviewed: 1 April 2021
Media review due: 1 April 2024

Page last reviewed: 27 July 2023
Next review due: 27 July 2026