Dementia tests and the assessment process
This group of pages tells you what happens when someone has an assessment to find out if they have dementia. It explains the different steps involved, including what happens if a diagnosis is made. You might find it useful if you are worried about your own memory, or someone else's.
What is 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.
Dementia can affect people in a variety of ways, depending on the diseases causing dementia, as well as different individual factors such as lifestyle. Common symptoms can include problems with:
- day-to-day memory (becoming more forgetful or feeling confused)
- concentrating, planning or organising
- language (for example, struggling to find the right word)
- judging distances and seeing objects properly (not caused by poor eyesight)
- orientation (for example, being confused about hte day or month, or places)
- mood and behaviour (such as feeling persistently anxious and low).
These symptoms may be small changes to start with, but they can become severe enough to affect daily life. For example, they can begin to cause problems with everyday tasks such as using a phone, or taking regular medication.
What is dementia?
Find out more about dementia and its symptoms, causes, risk factors and treatments
When you should have an assessment for dementia
If you are worried about your thinking or memory, or you notice any of the symptoms listed above or that you are behaving differently, you should visit your GP. They may suggest that you have an assessment to check if your symptoms can be explained by dementia.
Being assessed for dementia usually takes time (often this is several weeks or months). The process is not a single step but can include various stages and tests, and you will have several appointments.
When the assessment is complete, the doctor should have enough information to make a diagnosis - which will tell you what is causing your symptoms. They may give you a diagnosis of dementia. 'What happens after a diagnosis?' has advice on what you can do, and where you can seek further support if this happens.
Throughout the assessment process you may feel unsettled or anxious. You can refer to this factsheet over the course of your assessment to understand more about each stage.
You can also get support, information and advice at any point throughout the assessment process by calling our National Dementia Helpline.