What to do if you've just been diagnosed with dementia
If you have just been diagnosed with dementia, you may feel numb, scared, and find it difficult to take everything in.
Give yourself time to adjust to what a dementia diagnosis means for you.
You may find it helpful to talk to a counsellor at a memory clinic, if a local clinic offers this type of support.
You can also contact the helpline of a dementia charity, such as:
- Alzheimer's Society's Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456
- Dementia UK Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline on 0800 888 6678
If you can, share your feelings about the dementia diagnosis with family and friends.
When you feel ready, create an action plan for the future while you're still able to make clear decisions for yourself.
Get assessed for care and support
Your local authority has a duty to do a care and support needs assessment to find out what help you need.
A care and support needs assessment is free.
To arrange an assessment, contact your local social services. Alternatively, a GP, consultant, or another health or social care professional can make a referral to your local authority, after getting your consent.
For more information, read the Alzheimer's Society's guide to care and support in England.
Services and support
Find out what services are available in your area, so you're prepared and able to use this support if you need it.
Services arranged by local authorities vary between areas, but may include home care services, equipment, and adaptations for your home.
Some services, such as community nursing, are arranged by the NHS. Ask your hospital consultant or GP for details.
Make a will
It's a good idea to make a will if you have not made one already. This ensures that when you die, your money and possessions go to the people you choose.
A person with dementia can still make or change a will, provided they can show that they understand what they're doing and what the effects will be. A solicitor can advise if this is the case.
Read more about making a will on our page about managing legal affairs for someone with dementia.
Put your papers in order
Make sure all your important papers can be found easily. These might include bank and building society statements, mortgage or rental documents, insurance policies, your will, tax and pension details, bills and guarantees.
Consider setting up direct debits or standing orders for your regular bills. This means they'll be paid automatically from your bank account each month.
Find out more about managing money when you have dementia.
Make sure you're claiming all the benefits you're entitled to.
In particular, check whether:
- you're eligible for Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance – find out more on our page about benefits for over-65s
- your carer (if you have one) is eligible for Carer's Allowance
Other benefits you may be eligible for include Income Support, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction and Pension Credit.
Age UK has more about benefits, and how to claim them.
Choose someone to have lasting power of attorney
You can make one or more people an "attorney" to manage your affairs, including your money, property, and medical treatment, if it becomes necessary.
You can choose anyone you trust to be your attorney (usually a close friend or family member), but they must be over 18.
Find out more about power of attorney on our page about managing legal affairs for someone with dementia.
Advance care planning
You may want to make plans for your future care, called an "advance statement" and an "advance decision". These let your family and healthcare professionals know your wishes for your care if you become unable to make decisions (lack mental capacity) in the future.
Read more about advance statements and advance decisions on our page about managing legal affairs for someone with dementia.
A diagnosis of dementia does not necessarily mean you have to stop driving immediately, but you're legally required to inform the DVLA and your car insurance company promptly.
The DVLA may contact your hospital consultant or GP for more information. It may also arrange to assess your driving or eyesight, to check you can drive safely.
The Alzheimer's Society has more information about driving and dementia.
Take care of your health
It's important to look after your physical and mental health when you have dementia.
To stay healthy:
- talk to a GP if you feel you have low mood or depression. This is common in dementia, but there are treatments, such as talking therapies, that may help
- eat a healthy, balanced diet
- exercise regularly, such as walking every day, gardening, or doing tai chi
- ask a GP if you would benefit from having a flu jab and pneumonia (pneumococcal) vaccine
- have regular dental, eyesight and hearing check-ups
See a GP if you feel unwell. Problems, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), can make you feel more confused or agitated if they're not treated quickly.
Find out more about living well with dementia.
Create your life story
A "memory book" can be a way to stimulate your memory and reconnect you with your loved ones in the future.
Your memory book could include photographs, notes, and keepsakes from your childhood through to the present day. It can be a physical book or a digital version.
You may also want to create a digital or online playlist of your favourite music.
Dementia books on prescription
Reading Well Books on Prescription offer helpful information for people diagnosed with dementia, and their relatives and carers.
GPs and other healthcare professionals can recommend titles from a wide range of books about dementia.
The books are available for anyone to borrow free of charge from their local library. Some books might be available as e-books or audiobooks.
Find out more about Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia.
Page last reviewed: 27 May 2020
Next review due: 27 May 2023