Diagnosing Alzheimers – It is important to see the GP if you notice signs of Alzheimer’s disease in yourself or a family member.

carer holding hand of senior woman in home

First, the GP will try to rule out any underlying physical or mental causes of the symptoms – many of which can be treated – such as:

· depression

· anxiety

· vitamin deficiency

· diabetes

· hormonal conditions

· menopause

The GP will ask about the person’s symptoms, when they started, how they affect their daily life, and their family medical history.

It is a good idea to keep a record of symptoms for a few weeks to show the GP.

It is also helpful for a family member or friend to go to the appointment with the person so they can talk about any changes they have seen.

The GP is likely to carry out a short memory and concentration test. This may include:

· stating the day, date and year

· naming pictures of common objects, eg keys, kettle

· remembering and repeating a list of items

· completing a simple drawing, eg putting numbers on a clock face

The GP should also arrange blood tests, an ECG (a check of heart rhythm) and a head scan.

If other causes of the person’s symptoms are ruled out, the GP should refer them to a specialist memory clinic for more detailed assessments and further scans such as an MRI or CT scan to look for changes in the brain.

It may take several appointments and tests over a number of months to get a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be a relief for some people, as they have an explanation for what is happening to them and can access the support they need. For others, it can be upsetting and overwhelming