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Dementia assessment with your GP

If you are worried about symptoms that may be dementia, the first thing to do is to contact your GP surgery. Find out what to expect from your visit.

Your GP appointment

The GP will try to find out what is causing your symptoms – it could be dementia or it could be some other condition. 

They will:

  • talk to you about your symptoms and how they’ve been affecting you
  • check your memory and thinking with some standard tests
  • carry out physical examinations or tests, if needed

At the end they will explain what they’ve found, and they may refer you to a specialist for further assessment.

It’s a good idea to take someone with you and to make sure the appointment is set up in a way that suits your needs. 

When you book your appointment 

When you're booking the appointment with the GP, you can ask for:

  • a longer appointment if you have lots to talk about or feel you may take a long time to get your words out
  • a GP who you feel comfortable talking to. If there is a GP who knows you well, this may help them to understand your symptoms better
  • a translator, if you need one. It’s important that you and your GP can understand each other
  • an in-person appointment, rather than a phone appointment or video call. It may be easier for the GP to understand how your problems are affecting you if you see them in person
  • an appointment at a quieter time of day. This can help if you find the noise of the waiting room hard to cope with

Think about giving yourself enough time to get to your appointment, so that you don't feel rushed or stressed.

At the GP appointment

You may be seen by a GP or a nurse who is qualified to check for signs of dementia.

They will usually see you in their surgery. In some cases, they may visit you at home.

You can prepare for the appointment by following our tips for talking to your GP.

What to expect at the initial assessment

Talking about your symptoms

The GP should ask how and when your symptoms started and how they are affecting your life. It can help to show them any information you have, such as a completed symptoms checklist or a diary of symptoms.

Questions about your medical history

They may ask about your current health conditions and any you have had previously. They may also ask if other members of your family have had dementia, or similar conditions. They will also ask about any medicines you are taking, so it will help to make a note of these beforehand. Make sure you include over-the-counter medicines and herbal remedies that have not been prescribed by the doctor.

Checking your mental abilities

The GP will ask you a series of questions to understand more about your memory, how you think things through and your awareness about time and place. This is called a cognitive assessment. If your appointment is in person, they may ask you to write answers to some questions on a piece of paper.

Physical examinations

The GP may carry out a physical examination, particularly if there is a chance you have a condition that affects your movement. This may look at how you move, your co-ordination, and any obvious problems with your hearing and sight. If necessary, they may also check how your heart is working with a machine that measures your heartbeat.

Blood and urine tests

The GP will request a blood sample (and sometimes urine) to send off for testing. This is to check for other conditions that could be causing your symptoms, such as thyroid problems or vitamin deficiencies.

At the end of their assessment, the GP will explain their findings and discuss what actions need to be taken. If they think you might have dementia, they will probably need more information before they can confirm this.


The GP may refer you to a specialist service for further tests. This might be a local memory service or other specialist service within a community mental health team.

The GP may not refer you to a dementia specialist if they think your symptoms are being caused by another health condition. If so, they should talk to you about how they will diagnose and treat the other condition.

If you’re not referred but still concerned

Ask more questions

If your GP tells you that your symptoms are a normal sign of ageing, but you’re still unsure, you could ask:

  • how your symptoms are different to what might be expected for someone with dementia
  • what to do if your symptoms get worse, or if you have new symptoms
  • if it would be possible to be referred to a specialist anyway, so you can feel more confident about the diagnosis

You could also fill out the symptoms checklist and show it to your GP. This can help you explain your symptoms and how they are affecting you.

 Ask for a second opinion

If you’re unhappy with the decision of the GP, you can ask them to arrange a second opinion. This can be from a specialist or another GP. The GP does not have to do this, but it would be unusual for them to refuse.

If you have not been referred for a second opinion and feel this has made your health worse, you may wish to complain.

Disagreeing with your doctor isn’t easy, but you know yourself best. Feel confident in explaining your situation. The doctor has a duty to provide the most appropriate support for you.

How we support you

Get advice and information, whether you are worried about your memory, waiting for a referral or already diagnosed.

  • Call our support line to speak to a trained adviser
  • Visit our online forum to hear from people in the same situation

Get our booklet on diagnosis

Diagnosing dementia: A practical guide to assessment

If you prefer to read this information in print, our 68 page booklet 'Diagnosing dementia: A practical guide to assessment' has full advice and guidance.

Get it by post for free or view the PDF to download a copy.

Real life stories of assessment and diagnosis

Hear from people who have gone through the experience

Gina, who has vascular dementia, stands outside her house.

Being persistent with the GP has benefitted me

Gina recognised something was wrong but it was a challenge to make the GP listen to her concerns.

Jacqueline, Audrey and Alex in restaurant.

Spotting the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease

When Jacqueline's mum stopped doing the things she enjoyed, she took her to the GP.

Ian and Irene on holiday in Morocco.

Getting a dementia diagnosis helped me take back control

Ian was diagnosed with vascular dementia. He reflects on how he's adjusted to his diagnosis.

Last reviewed: December 2023

Next review: December 2025