Getting a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s usually starts with a conversation with a health professional, most often a GP. There is no single test for Alzheimer's disease. A diagnosis may be based on a combination of different types of assessments.

Alzheimer's disease
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Getting a timely diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease has important benefits:

  • It gives the person an explanation for their symptoms.
  • It gives them access to treatment, advice and support.
  • It allows them to prepare for the future and plan ahead.

If a GP thinks their symptoms may be caused by dementia, they will refer the person to a local memory service for more detailed assessment.

In the film below, Dr Louise Robinson gives her top tips to help you prepare for your first conversation with a GP.

The specialist health professionals at the memory service will have lots of combined expertise in dementia and can arrange more detailed tests and brain scans, if needed.

Seeing a specialist

Alzheimer’s will usually be diagnosed by a specialist health professional. 

There is no simple test for Alzheimer’s, so it’s never possible to be 100% sure of a diagnosis. To be as accurate as possible, the specialist will look at and consider different pieces of information including:  

  • a medical ‘history’ – the clinician talks to the person, and ideally someone who knows them well, about how their problems have developed and how they are affecting their daily life, for example about changes in their mood or the sort of tasks they’re able to do at home  
  • physical examination and tests, such as blood or urine tests, to check for other possible causes of the person’s symptoms
  • a series of questions to understand more about memory, awareness of time and place, and how a person thinks things through
  • a scan of the brain, if this is needed to make a diagnosis.

A person with Alzheimer’s should receive a clear explanation of their diagnosis if they want to know it. There should also be a discussion about the next steps and what support is available.

How to get a dementia diagnosis

The dementia diagnosis process can vary for everyone. Learn more about the typical steps involved.

Diagnosing dementia
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