Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer’s is a disease that causes dementia. It is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for about two-thirds of cases in the elderly.

Diagnosing Alzheimer’s is important. It means you can get the right support and treatments. It also means you can plan for the future.

If you are worried about your health or someone else’s, you should talk to your GP. If your GP suspects dementia, they may refer you to a memory clinic or another specialist clinic. Here, a doctor or nurse may run through some questions and tests with you. These are likely to include:

  • Asking you some questions about your symptoms and medical history.
  • Asking about your mood.
  • Speaking with your partner or someone close to you about your symptoms.
  • Having a physical check-up.
  • Completing some standard pen-and-paper tests to check your memory, language and problem-solving skills.

These tests may be repeated, perhaps every six to 12 months, to see if there are any changes. Sometimes, if symptoms are mild, looking for change with time is the best way to be sure if anything is wrong.

You may also be asked to undergo other tests, including brain scans and blood tests. Together all of these things will help a doctor find out about any problems in memory or thinking and the likely cause.

If you are assessed for the possibility of having Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, you can choose not to know the diagnosis. You can also choose who else can know about your diagnosis.

If you are given a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, you may be offered various types of support. You may also be prescribed drugs or other treatments to help with symptoms or improve your quality of life.

This information was written in April 2014 and is due for review in April 2016. Please contact us if you would like a version with references.