If you are worried about your own memory, or that of someone close to you, it’s important to consider seeking help so that you can receive an accurate diagnosis. This process will vary from country to country – but it’s generally good to start with your doctor or general practitioner (GP).
Discussing your concerns with your doctor and having an examination can exclude other treatable conditions that can cause memory loss such as depression, urinary tract infection, vitamin deficiencies, a brain tumour or thyroid problems.
Dementia is not a normal part of ageing, so getting a diagnosis can help you take control and plan ahead.
Benefits of timely diagnosis
Taking the first steps to seek a diagnosis can be scary, but there are benefits to having an early diagnosis. You may have been wondering what is happening to you and have been worried and anxious about the changes you have noticed. Although being diagnosed with dementia can be an upsetting experience, it can also be a relief because knowing the causes of your problems can resolve the anxiety felt by both you and your family.
According to George Brown of the United Kingdom:
I was diagnosed as having the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. While this was a terrible blow to both myself and my wife, we were glad to have been told so that we could discuss the possible effects on our lives and plan how we could adjust to the situation.
Receiving a timely diagnosis of dementia will enable you to:
- Gain access to information, resources and support for yourself and those close to you
- Demystify and destigmatise your condition
- Maximise your quality of life
- Benefit from support and available drug and non-drug therapies that may improve your cognition
- Plan for the future
- Explain to your family, friends and colleagues what has changed in your life and how they can help you
On a practical level there is a lot that can be done:
- Check on any state or social support that you or your family may be entitled to.
- Start making enquiries about what support services are available in your area for you and for your family.
- You may wish to review your financial situation and make decisions about legal affairs.
- If you are still at work, you could think about reducing your hours or working with your employer to make reasonable adjustments so you can continue to work.
- It is advisable to check with your insurance company to see whether you are still covered for driving.
- You may wish to participate in an early stage support group and form new relationships with others in a similar situation to share feelings, information and coping strategies. You can contact the Alzheimer association in your country for more information, advice and help.
According to the World Alzheimer Report 2021, 98% of Alzheimer and dementia associations stated that they provide updated diagnosis information on their website. If you are concerned about yourself or somebody you know, contact your national association and consider speaking with a healthcare professional.