Support and services from the GP

Support and services from the GP include support for anxiety and depression, medical and practical support.

A person with dementia should see their GP at least once a year for a check-up, called an annual review. This is an important part of their care. They should also contact their GP practice as soon as they feel unwell, or if they are worried about their health.

Coronavirus and GP services

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NHS may change how it supports patients. To help surgeries to run efficiently and safely, most patients may have video or telephone appointments. If you don’t think this type of appointment will benefit the person you care for, speak to the GP practice about a face-to-face appointment.

What support can the GP and practice team give?

As well as an annual review, GPs and the practice team (for example, nurses and healthcare assistants) can offer a range of support to a person with dementia and to those caring for them, including:

  • advice on how to prevent illness and how to maintain fitness
  • medical advice and treatment
  • support with managing any other conditions the person may have, for example diabetes, high blood pressure, or Parkinson’s disease
  • referrals to specialist help and services, such as:
    • talking therapies with a counsellor, or help to look after their mental health
    • a gym or physiotherapist to help with fitness and movement
    • a speech and language therapist to help with communication.

Some practices have Social prescribers (also known as ‘link workers’) who can recommend local support in the community. They can suggest local services that will help the person to manage long-term or complex conditions, and that can help them feel less isolated in the community.

Have you noticed a sudden change?

If you notice a sudden change in the person with dementia (over hours or days), it could be delirium, which is a medical emergency. Delirium can cause people to become confused, drowsy, or distressed. You should make an urgent appointment with the GP or call the NHS 111 telephone service.

More about delirium

GP support for anxiety and depression

The GP can provide support if the person feels anxious or restless, or is unhappy for a long period of time.

Contact the doctor if there have been changes in their sleeping or eating patterns, or if they become very withdrawn. Any of these can be a sign of depression, which is common during the early stages of dementia.

The GP may consider prescribing antidepressant medication, counselling or other forms of support.

What practical support can the GP give?

If the GP feels that you, or the person with dementia, needs some practical support, they may make a referral to social care staff. You can contact a social care team yourself if you feel you need some help or support. Your local social services department can tell you what services are available, for example:

  • occupational therapy assessment (to assess how to make living at home easier with daily living aids, or adaptations)
  • day care centres
  • replacement care (sometimes called respite care or short breaks)
  • personal care at home (for example, help with cooking a meal or washing).

If you have not already done so, ask for an assessment of your needs by social services. Carers are entitled to their own needs assessment. The GP can refer you, or you can contact social services directly. You can also find their number online via the government website, under the name of your local council.

For more information, see our information on Assessment for care and support in England, in Wales and in Northern Ireland.

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