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Diagnosing Dementia

Getting Diagnosed

Getting diagnosed with dementia is a vital step in ensuring a better quality of life for both the individual and their loved ones.

Early detection can help individuals and their family plan for the future and make necessary arrangements. It also provides an opportunity for early intervention and treatment that can potentially slow down the progression of the disease, improve quality of life, and delay the need for full-time care.

An early diagnosis will help alleviate uncertainty and provide a sense of clarity, allowing individuals to take control of their situation and make informed decisions about their life. Although there is no cure for dementia, there is a lot of support available that recognises the importance of an individual’s needs, promotes wellbeing and increases independence.

Book an appointment with your GP:

  • Ask for a thorough physical, neurological and social evaluation
  • Write down a list of concerns prior to your appointment and we recommend taking someone with you.
  • Your GP may ask a specialist to help in establishing a diagnosis
  • There is no one test to show whether someone has dementia
  • Dementia can only be diagnosed by excluding other possible causes of the symptoms. This is why a full medical assessment is important.

Click here to learn more about diagnosing dementia.




Source: Dementia Australia



What should I do before seeing my GP?

It can be a good idea to write down any of the concerns you have as well as examples of these. Take along a trusted support person so you can debrief with them afterwards, their perspective on the changes you’ve been experiencing can also be relevant and useful.


What can I expect from my GP appointment?

The diagnosis of dementia requires an in-depth assessment that may include some or all of the following:

  • A thorough physical examination including blood and urine tests
  • A thorough medical history which may include discussion with your partner/family
  • A discussion with you around your mental and physical health and wellbeing
  • A variety of tools to assess your memory
  • A CT or MRI scan

The reason for such a rigourous approach is to make sure any other conditions that may explain the changes you are experiencing are excluded. It may take a few visits to your medical practice and other appointments if needed, before a diagnosis is made. Between visits it can be a good idea to write down any questions you may have and to have a support person accompany you to appointments.


Feelings after a diagnosis

If you have just received a diagnosis of dementia, or are concerned that you have dementia, it is understandable to have a range of emotions and responses including disbelief, shock, sadness, anger, or anxiety. These are common feelings people experience after getting a diagnosis of dementia and are completely normal and understandable.

It may reassure you to know that these feelings are likely to lessen over time, and/or become areas where it can be helpful to talk with others.

Considerable stigma still exists around dementia which can make coming to terms with a diagnosis even harder. The stigma associated with dementia can cut into a person’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Fortunately stigma can be challenged and a growing number of people living with dementia are doing just that. For some people one of the most powerful ways of coming to terms with a diagnosis of dementia is to talk to other people in the same situation.  Discussing hopes and fears with others facing the same issues can help reduce some of the anxiety and sense of aloneness that a diagnosis can bring.

Find Local Help - Dementia New Zealand Network