Assessment process and tests

Find more information on walking about and dementia

If you are worried that you are getting more forgetful, or you have been feeling confused, anxious or low for a while, it is a good idea to visit your GP. If you are concerned that someone close to you has been experiencing these difficulties, or has been behaving out of character, you may like to suggest that they visit their GP and that you accompany them for the appointment. This factsheet outlines the process and benefits of assessing someone for possible dementia and then making and sharing a diagnosis.

The changes listed above may be caused by several conditions, but they may also be an indication of dementia. The term 'dementia' describes a set of symptoms that occur when the brain is damaged by certain diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease or a series of small strokes.

Each person will experience dementia differently, but there will usually be problems with:

  • day-to-day memory
  • concentrating, planning or organising
  • language (eg struggling to find the right word)
  • judging distances and seeing objects properly (not caused by poor eyesight)
  • orientation (eg confusion about the day or month, or where they are).

These changes are often small to start with, but for someone with dementia they have become severe enough to affect daily life. For example, the person or their family may notice that they now struggle to use the phone or regularly forget to take their medicine.

A person with dementia may also experience changes in their mood or behaviour. For more information about dementia, see our What is dementia? page.

Assessment for possible dementia is not a single step but a process that takes time. It often starts with the person or family members realising that there is something wrong. Assessment proceeds through various stages and tests, and ends with sharing of the diagnosis. For the person and those close to them, this journey is often an uncertain, anxious and emotional one.