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Currently there is no single test either for dementia or the diseases that cause the symptoms of dementia.

Fear of dementia

A certain degree of fear and stigma still surrounds dementia in Ireland. This can prevent some people seeking help or telling people about their diagnosis. It can also stop others from talking to individuals they know with dementia. This can be isolating for the person with the dementia and leads to a lot of unnecessary stigma and loneliness. People aren’t deliberately unkind; they feel awkward or embarrassed which leads to them ignoring friends or acquaintances. Fear can be very debilitating. Dementia is much more than just a health issue, it is a social issue and it needs a community response from every single one of us.

That same fear can also cause people who are experiencing signs of dementia to delay seeking help for as long as possible. This is unfortunate because an early diagnosis gives people the best chance to prepare and plan for the future, and to receive treatment. With support from healthcare professionals, family and friends, many people are able to lead active, fulfilling lives with dementia.

The first step...

The journey towards diagnosis usually begins with a visit to your GP. This consultation is an opportunity to talk about all the symptoms that concern you. The first priority is to rule out other possible causes of your memory complaints. Blood tests, memory tests and other assessments will be part of this. It may be that there is another cause entirely such as vitamin deficiency, thryroid abnormalities, medication side effects or depression.

The GP may then refer you to a hospital-based consultant or memory service for a full assessment to identify the cause of your symptoms. If you are over 65, this may be a geriatric medicine specialist or a later life psychiatrist. If you are under 65 you may be referred to a neurologist – a doctor with particular expertise in disorders of the brain.

Memory Clinic

The GP or consultant may make an initial diagnosis and may also refer you to a specialist Memory Clinic. These are found around the country and specialise in diagnosing the cause of memory problems. Generally a referral is required to attend a Memory Clinic.

Easy steps to take

- Watch these informative short videos
- Read this helpful guide on the early stages of dementia
- Speak with your GP
- Read this short factsheet on the early symptoms and diagnosis of dementia
- Freephone the helpline (1800 341 341) or speak to your local Dementia Adviser