How the GP can support a person with dementia

Find out what support is available from a GP when a person has dementia, including the role of the GP in dementia care. The GP can support a person even if they don't accept their diagnosis.

The role of the GP

General Practitioners (GP) and GP practice staff have an important role in supporting people with dementia and their carers. They can offer treatments, referrals, advice and information to help the person to manage their condition and live well with dementia. People with dementia and carers should have a check-up with their own doctor, at least once a year.

They should also see them as soon as possible if they have any concerns about their health. If you think that someone you know may have dementia, but they have not been diagnosed, talk to your doctor.

GPs will often be involved in the process of a diagnosis, either by making a diagnosis themselves or referring a person to specialist services.

What support will a GP give after a diagnosis?

GPs are an important source of support for people diagnosed with dementia, and their carers. Their doctor can help them to manage the condition, and to live well after a diagnosis of dementia.

Following a diagnosis, the GP should make sure that the person understands what this means, and talk with them about what to do next. They may also tell the person where they can get further information, and share any local sources of support.

What will the GP say about driving? 

If the person with dementia currently drives, the GP will tell them that they must notify their insurer and DVLA (DVA in Northern Ireland).

For more information see Driving and dementia

What support can the GP give to help plan ahead?

The GP should talk to the person about planning for the future. This can include the types of care and support they would like in future, and end of life care.

Family and friends may be included in this discussion. Talking about the future is especially important for people with dementia, as they may not be able to make decisions for themselves later on. The GP can talk about this in the person's annual review

For information on all aspects of preparing for the future, see Planning ahead

What information will the GP record?

The GP may take the contact details of a carer, family member or friend of the person with dementia. This person will be a key contact and the person with dementia may allow the doctor to share relevant medical information with them.

For more information, see Can the GP share information with carers?

Can the GP support a person if they don't accept their diagnosis?

Sometimes, after a diagnosis of dementia, the person may not understand or accept their diagnosis. There can be many reasons for this, including memory problems. The person may be in denial, or have what is known as ‘lack of insight’.

Even though a person may not acknowledge their diagnosis, their GP can support them. It may still be possible to talk about planning ahead and future care. Tell the GP if the person won’t accept support and this means that they or someone else is in danger.

For more information see Understanding denial and lack of insight.

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