Understanding Dementia

Part 4: Getting a Diagnosis

Several conditions can lead to dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease and vascular disease (including stroke).

Signs of dementia are unique to each person, but there will usually be:

  • Decline in memory, reasoning and communication skills
  • Gradual loss of the skills needed to carry out daily activities
  • Confusion

Other conditions have symptoms similar to dementia and may be treatable, including:

  • depression,
  • chest and urinary infections,
  • severe constipation,
  • vitamin and thyroid deficiencies,
  • brain tumours,
  • drug interactions,
  • alcohol abuse. 
  • Other possible causes of confusion are poor sight or hearing; and emotional changes and upsets, such as moving or bereavement.

Finding out the cause of the symptoms can help you to:

  • Understand the source of the symptoms
  • Get advice, information and support (emotional, practical and financial) from community agencies, medical professionals and the Alzheimer Society
  • Allow the person with dementia to plan and make arrangements for the future

In the two videos below, geriatrician, Dr Jasneet Parmar talks about getting a diagnosis of dementia, the process of diagnosis and what to do if you are worried about someone's memory or your own.


If you or someone you care about is showing signs such as forgetfulness, confusion or agitation, speak to your family doctor. (If you don’t have a family doctor, you can call your local Alzheimer Society). At the end of the assessment, your family doctor may feel able to make a diagnosis, or they may request further tests to make sure.  They may also want to refer the person to a memory clinic or other specialist service for a fuller assessment.

More Learning Resources

Talking to your doctor about dementia

How to get tested for dementia: Tips for individuals, families and friends

Risk factors for dementia

The 10 benefits of an Early Diagnosis

Principles of a Dignified Diagnosis