What to do if you think your parent has dementia?

You may think your  parent  seems a little forgetful, or have difficulty remembering the right words for things, but are not sure if this means they really have a problem?

Your parent may think they are absolutely fine and their partner may be in denial or protecting them

This is a situation that many families find themselves in and are not sure what steps to take

The following piece gives some advice and guidance:

How to spot the signs of dementia

  • Forgetting important dates or events
  • Finding difficulty in basic tasks, such as following a recipe or keeping track of bills
  • Forgetting the rules of a card game or how to get to a familiar location
  • Losing track of the date and time, or where you are and how you got there
  • Having trouble recalling words for specific objects
  • Difficulty with spatial reasoning, such as parking or visual problems with following a newspaper article
  • Misplacing things and inability to retrace steps
  • Buying things you do not need
  • Social withdrawal
  • Changes in mood, such as confusion, depression, and anxiety

Is it worth getting advice?

Is it worth getting advice, or is it better to wait and see how your parent gets on for a while? Often families think there is no point doing anything about a parent with dementia in the early days, but this just isn’t true. The earlier a diagnosos is made, the earlier support can be put in place and the better the outcome is likely to be. They will most probably be able to stay at home longer, manage better and plan for the future.

What to do if you are worried your parent may have dementia?

  • Persuade your parent to visit the GP.
  • If they won’t go, go yourself and discuss your worries
  • You can ask the GP to make a home visit to your parent
  • Another option is to speak their their GP and ask them to call in your parent for a general check up and then they can also assess the dementia situation

Remember, the earlier the diagnosis, the earlier they can get medical and other support

Watch this video explaining dementia

What should you expect from the GP?

The GP should examine your parent and eliminate any specific medical causes. Dementia can be related to prescribed medicines, vitamin deficiencies and urinary infections

If these things are ruled out, you should expect a referral to Memory Services, a service provided by the Mental Health Trust. These will operate differently depending on the area you live in

You should bear in mind that some GPs are more responsive and more knowledgeable in this area than others, so you may need to push to get a referral.

What are the treatments available?

  • Medical solutions. Sometimes dementia can be caused by thyroid problems or vitamin deficiencies.
  • Alzheimer’s can be alleviated for a while with specific medication
  • Drug trials are being undertaken all the time and the Memory Service or GP might refer your parent to one of these if they are interested
  •  Referral to specialist day-care activity facilities, which can be very important in the treatment of dementia

Regular reviews

If your parent is given medication, this will be reviewed every six months. If they are given a care package, this will not necessarily be reviewed automatically and it will be up to you to request more help if the situation deteriorates. Make sure you investigate what other services might be available and ask for them as early as possible

Risk assessments

It is important to assess the possible risks to dementia patients. These can include:

  • Fire, where the Fire Brigade will do a risk assessment at home to install smoke alarms etc.
  • Social care, to assess risks within the home
  • Financial, to assess for Attendance Allowance for care and assessment for a possible reduction in council tax
  • Driving, to assess the risk of being allowed to drive. Anyone diagnosed with dementia will be asked to inform the DVLA. The DVLA will usually grant a further year in the licence, but may ask for a medical form from the GP or Memory Services. If a driving licence is withdrawn, you can ask to be assessed again at a DVLA centre

What help is there for carers?

Caring for someone with dementia can be stressful, isolating, exhausting and time-intensive. There is help out there, however.

Support groups exist in all areas, run either by The Alzheimer’s Society or Age UK.

Carer services exist in all areas. Find the information you need in your area from you local authority directory or website, library, local memory services or social services

Government Strategies for Dementia

The strategy outlines three key steps to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their carers.

  1. Better knowledge about dementia and removing  the stigma that sadly still surrounds it. The challenge of removing common misconceptions is crucial. Dementia is not a natural consequence of ageing and it is not true that nothing can be done for people with the condition. In reality, a great deal can be done to help people overcome the problems of dementia, to prevent crises and to improve the quality of life of all involved
  2. Ensuring that people with dementia are properly diagnosed, ensuring appropriate information is given, alongside effective intervention at an early stage
  3. Develop a range of services for people with dementia and their carers which fully meets their changing needs over time
Next Steps

Useful links



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