Know Dementia: Getting a Diagnosis
Sep 21, 2021

September 2021 is the 10th anniversary of World Alzheimer’s Month, which is aimed at raising awareness and challenging stigmas associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. World Alzheimer’s Month is organised by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), a global not-for-profit. It says there is a growing urgency for people around the world to ‘Know Dementia’ – and that is the campaign theme for this year.

Some symptoms of dementia can mirror symptoms of other, treatable conditions, so it’s important to get a diagnosis for your symptoms.

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Typically, a diagnosis starts by understanding and recognising the 10 signs of cognitive impairment.

This guide will walk you through the more common steps of receiving a dementia diagnosis.

Step 1: Know the 10 Signs

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Challenges with planning and problem solving
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • New problems with words in speaking and writing
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Decreased or poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood or personality

Step 2: Talk to your doctor

If you recognise any of the 10 signs, the next recommended step is to call your GP.  While he or she will be an important part of your care team, your doctor may refer you to specialists to determine the cause of your symptoms. Neurologists generally have the expertise to diagnose dementia, although other specialists may also be skilled in making a diagnosis. Members of your care team may include cognitive neurologists, neuropsychologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and geriatricians.

  • Call your primary care physician
  • Discuss your concerns with your doctor and ask for an objective assessment to detect cognitive impairment

Enlist the help of community resources:

Importance of Early Detection

Being proactive with your health by requesting an assessment can lead to many positive outcomes:

  • Understanding the cause and treating the underlying disease or health condition
  • Emphasis can be put on treatment, reducing symptoms and care, rather than searching for a diagnosis
  • Allows for the person and their family/significant others to have important conversations about the person’s wishes and their future care
  • Gives the person, their family, and loved ones time to plan or create advance directives
  • Allows time for the person to assemble a care team that can help with medical, legal, financial and safety concerns
  • Promotes disease education and community support, through groups, etc.
  • May allow for access to research and clinical trials

For more information, read the ADI's annual report ‘Journey through the diagnosis of dementia’ launched today.