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Talking to someone about their memory problems

It can be difficult to talk to someone about problems with their memory. We have advice to help you start a conversation.

Should you talk to someone about their memory problems?

Talking to someone you know about the problems they are having with their memory can help them to get the support they need.

There isn't a right or wrong way to discuss what you’ve noticed. However, it can be a good idea to consider in advance what you want to say. 

Preparing to have a conversation 

Before talking to someone about their memory problems, think about the following:

  • Are you the right person to speak with them? There might be someone else who they turn to for advice.  
  • Have they mentioned their memory problems?
  • Do they describe their memory problems as a natural part of ageing?
  • Could they be scared about what the changes could mean?

If you think speaking to a GP might help, consider the following:

  • Do they think there won’t be any point in seeking help?
  • What could be stopping the person from seeing a GP about their memory problems?
  • Would they find it reassuring to have someone go to the GP with them?

These questions will help you to consider how the person might be feeling and how you can address their concerns.

Tips for talking to someone about their memory problems

If you have decided to start a conversation with someone, the following tips may help:

Pick a place that is familiar and non-threatening

Talk about it where you both feel comfortable.

Find a quiet time to speak

Choose a time when you won’t be rushed, disturbed or interrupted.

Choose the words you use carefully

Use reassuring and non-judgmental language. You might start the conversation by gently asking the person if they’ve noticed any changes about themselves recently or been feeling any different from usual. Are they struggling with anything?

If appropriate, mention things you’ve noticed or examples that you’re concerned about. Show that you are raising concerns because you care about them and want to offer support.

Be positive

If their problems are due to an illness such as dementia, talking to a GP can lead to the help and support they need.

Listen to the person

Take on board how the person responds. They may not react how you expect them to. You may need to adapt your approach but try not to worry if they don’t respond well.

This may come as a surprise to them and make them frightened and confused. Or they may not be aware of the problems you’ve noticed.

Speaking to a GP about someone else’s memory problems

If you can’t persuade someone to see their GP and you are still worried, you could mention your concerns to the GP yourself.

Patient confidentiality means a GP is not able to give out information about a patient, but they are able to receive information. It is up to the individual GP to decide if they should act on the information you have provided. 

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

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Last reviewed: December 2023

Next review: December 2025