It’s Dementia Awareness Week and this year’s theme is diagnosis. Dementia affects so many of us and those people not getting diagnosed are missing out on support systems. Our blog hopes to relive the uncertainty about the diagnosis process and provide you or your loved one with some insightful information.
Why it’s important to get a diagnosis
Although it can be daunting getting a diagnosis of dementia, a timely diagnosis would allow you to make important decisions about treatment, support, and care. There has been a sustained drop in dementia diagnosis rates for the first time ever, so that’s why this year’s theme aims to raise awareness around getting a diagnosis.
In fact, 3 out of 5 people with dementia wish they had been diagnosed sooner. However, there are barriers stopping people from getting diagnosed, which range from:
- The misconception that memory loss is just a part of getting old.
- Feeling in denial.
- Referral times to specialists.
- Not knowing all the symptoms of dementia – it is different for everybody.
- Thinking you’re too young – it can also affect people in mid-life, and 1 in 20 people with dementia are younger than 65.
A worry that some may have is that they will be seen differently by people if it is known they have dementia. This can be particularly difficult in communities where conditions like dementia aren’t well understood or accepted. However, you must remember that it is your decision who, when and how you tell them.
Getting a diagnosis
When taking the steps to get a diagnosis for dementia, it’s likely you will either see the healthcare professional in their surgery or they will make a home visit.
They will take a personal and medical ‘history’ to find out when your symptoms started, how they’re affecting your life, your medical history, and any medicines you are taking.
They will do physical examinations to see if you’ve had a stroke or have Parkinson’s disease – this could involve analysing your movements and co-ordination, as well as looking at problems with your hearing and sight. They may also look at doing urine or blood tests to see if there are other conditions causing your symptoms, like thyroid problems or vitamin deficiencies.
The GP will also check your mental abilities, such as by asking a series of questions to understand more about your memory, how you think things through and your awareness about time and place. This is called a ‘cognitive assessment’.
Before the appointment
It is a good idea to prepare before going to your GP, just to make it as smooth and stress-free as possible.
- Ask someone close to you to accompany you – they can help you remember what was said at the appointment and it will also help the GP to talk to someone who may have noticed changes you haven’t.
- Write down what you want to say and take these notes with you. Keeping note of problems you’ve been experiencing will help your GP to understand how your symptoms are affecting you.
- Make a list of all the medication you take, including over-the-counter medications and other remedies such as vitamins.
- It may be beneficial to ask for a longer appointment in case it is difficult to get your words out, so that you don’t feel rushed talking about how you feel.
- If possible, ask to speak to a GP you feel most comfortable with so that it will be easier to talk to them
- Trying to get an appointment at a quieter time of day may make the wait in the waiting room less busy and hard to cope with
- Think about what you’d like your GP to do. You could discuss having further tests, a referral to a memory service, or arranging more support at home
During the appointment
- Be honest with your GP. It may be difficult to talk about mistakes you’ve been making with your memory or behavioural changes, but you will get the best help if your GP knows everything.
- Describe things in ways that feel most natural – don’t hold back from talking about your struggles and how it upsets you.
- Make a note of things your GP says – write down important information, especially any medical terms or the next steps of the process.
- Ask any questions that you have, and don’t worry about asking your GP to repeat things or explain things to you in simpler terms.
If you or your loved one are looking for Dementia Care to help maintain quality of life whilst going through the changes, our carers at Clarity Homecare are trained to be able to notice early signs of dementia and support you through it all. You can call us on 01623 332006 or visit our website to find your local office and discuss the care options that would be most suitable for you or your loved one.
For further information about Dementia Awareness Week, visit this website.