Doctors provide a wide range of services to people with dementia, from initial diagnosis to ongoing care. You may see different types of doctors who have specialist training in different types of medicine.
General practitioners (GPs)
Your GP is the first point of call if you have any concerns about your health. The GP leads the team which will look after your overall health, including any other conditions (eg diabetes, depression) you may be living with. They may be the person who gets to know you best.
Your GP can refer you to other health professionals, such as specialists or community nurses, if needed. They may also suggest other services that could be helpful for you. You can see your GP at the surgery, or they may visit you at home.
Keep their number somewhere convenient, for example near your telephone, so you always have it to hand.
Your GP can:
- talk to you about your symptoms and medical problems (not just dementia)
- carry out a physical examination
- arrange further tests with a consultant or hospital specialist
- review whether your drugs are working.
Tips for visiting the GP
- Write down things you want to talk about before you go. It can be difficult to remember everything you want to say.
- Make a note of anything important the doctor says. You might want to write down any medical terms, for example.
- Ask the doctor to explain in simpler language if you do not understand what they are telling you.
- If you have any customs or religious beliefs that may affect treatment, mention this to your GP.
- Ring the surgery after the appointment if there is anything you forgot to ask. You may be able to speak to the doctor on the telephone rather than have to make another appointment.
- Ask to see the named GP that has been allocated to you.
Seeing the same GP regularly should be better for you. Sometimes this will not be possible, depending on which doctor is available at the surgery.
If an appointment with a consultant is arranged for you, this will take place at a hospital. Consultants are doctors who have had years of training and experience in a particular area. Some will arrange for investigations, such as brain scans, and be able to start prescribing of drugs for dementia. The consultant you see will depend on your age and symptoms, as well as how services are organised in your area. The following are some of the consultants you may be referred to.
Psychiatrists diagnose and treat many different mental health problems, including dementia, but also depression, anxiety and others. You might see an old-age psychiatrist, who has specialised in treating older people. If you are under 65, your GP may refer you to a general adult psychiatrist.
Geriatricians specialise in the care of older people, and in the physical illnesses and disabilities of old age.
Neurologists specialise in the brain and nervous system. Some neurologists have particular experience in dementia, particularly types like dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia.
Clinical psychologists are not medical doctors. They assess memory, learning abilities and other skills. They also offer support to cope with any difficulties you may be experiencing, such as anxiety or mental distress. They often work with consultants in memory clinics as part of a team. Ask your GP for more information.