It’s normal for memory to be affected by stress, tiredness, certain illnesses and medicines. But if you’re becoming increasingly forgetful, particularly if you’re over the age of 65, it’s a good idea to talk to a GP about the early signs of dementia.

Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning.

There are many different causes of dementia, and many different types – Alzheimer’s for example. 

Living with dementia

How your GP can help

If you have a diagnosis of dementia, your GP will:

  • Have yearly appointments with you to review your condition (see below for more information)
  • Give information about driving and how your condition may affect it
    See here for more information
  • Take the contact details of a carer, family member or friend for the patient’s record
  • The GP might talk with the patient about making plans for the future, when you may not have the ability to make your own decisions anymore. This may seem far off and extreme, but it is better to make plans early than to regret not having made them later on.
    See here for our advice on end of life planning

Yearly dementia review

Your GP will:

  • Ask you questions about
    – Your understanding of your condition
    – Mood and welfare
    – Your contact details
  • Review of your medication
  • Ask about any changes in behaviour
  • Discuss advance care planning
  • Talk to your carer about whether they need any support



  • Memory loss
  • Problems with thinking speed
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Difficulty with language, such as using words incorrectly, or trouble speaking
  • Problems with understanding and judgement
  • Changes in mood and social interactions
  • Difficulty with movement and doing daily activities
  • Changes in personality (such as a loss of empathy and compassion)
  • Hallucinations seeing or hearing things that other people do not

Non-urgent advice:

If you, or somebody you know (particularly if aged over 65), start to experience some of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with a GP

Seeing your GP

Before your appointment

If you or somebody you know is having a doctor’s appointment to discuss a possible diagnosis of dementia, you may want to consider the following in advance of seeing the GP:

Your appointment

When you see your GP, they will:

  • Ask you about your symptoms and larger medical history
  • How your problems affect your daily life
  • Test your memory and cognitive abilities:
    – State the day, date, and year
    – Name some common objects (from pictures or as answers to questions)
    – Remember and repeat items to test concentration and short-term memory
    – Complete a drawing

They might also:

  • Request a blood test
  • Take a urine sample
  • Request a heart trace (ECG)

After your appointment, your doctor might refer you to a specialist who will conduct further tests and scans.

Support and resources

For dementia patients

  • Alzheimer’s Society has a search function to find local support in your area (transport, social groups, care homes etc.)
    Click here to search
  • Advice on having a dementia-friendly home, so that you can stay independent for longer
    Click here for more information

For dementia carers