Becoming forgetful does not necessarily mean that you have dementia. Memory problems are common, and many of us especially notice our memory becoming less efficient and reliable as we get older.

This can be a normal part of ageing. If you are worried about your memory - or that of someone you know - finding help and support and going to see your GP are all positive steps to take to enrich your quality of life, or that of the person you care for.

Getting help with memory problems & dementia

Where can I get help if I am worried about dementia?

If you are worried about yourself or a family member or friend experiencing forgetfulness, or any of the other changes outlined above, the first port of call should always be your GP. This is important because other conditions such as depression, stress, infection or certain blood problems may cause similar, but treatable changes in thinking and behaviour. As well as doing a brief test to assess your memory, your GP can also quickly check your physical health to exclude and treat other causes.

Whilst GP's do not normally make a diagnosis of dementia they will do a brief assessment of memory and thinking. If other causes have been ruled out, then based on the outcome of this test, the GP may just keep an eye on you and see you again in a few months to repeat the tests to see if things have changed, or if indicated, they may refer the person for a specialist memory assessment.

So what is dementia?

Dementia is a descriptive term given to a picture of progressive and sustained decline of mental ability that affects how an individual thinks, feels, sees, experiences and acts in the world. These 'visible' changes or 'signs and symptoms' of dementia include memory loss, communication and perception problems, changes in mood, personality, the ability to cope effectively, and subsequently also changes in behaviour. The visible changes are caused by an underlying disease or altered condition of the brain, with Alzheimer's disease being the most common and well known example, but far from the only cause of dementia.

Dementia most commonly affects older people, and becomes increasingly frequent with increasing age, from 65 years of age onwards. However, dementia is not a normal part of ageing and most people experience healthy ageing without dementia. Whilst comparatively rare, it is important to realise that dementia also affects younger people before the age of 65 years and can be easily missed as people do not necessarily associate dementia with people this age.

What can cause memory problems?

It's happened to all of us at some time or another: you can't put a name to a face, you forget where you put your keys or you can't remember where you parked the car. Most of the time these things are not a sign of anything serious. 

But if you are worried that your memory - or that of someone you know - is getting noticeably worse, or if memory problems are beginning to have a knock-on effect on everyday life, it could be an early sign of a medical condition such as dementia.

Although some people might feel scared or embarrassed talking about memory problems, seeing your GP can make all the difference. There are a number of treatable medical conditions that can cause memory problems, and it is important to rule these out as soon as possible.

Getting help

If you are worried about your memory or the memory of someone else you should contact your GP, in the first instance. 


Further information



Useful contacts:

Alzheimer's Society
Address: Alzheimer's Society, 43-44 Crutched Friars, London, EC3N 2AE
Phone: 0300 222 1122

Richmond Council Adult Access Team
Address: Adult Social Services, Civic Centre, 44 York Street, Twickenham, TW1 3BZ
Phone: 020 8891 7971
Minicom: 18001 020 8891 7971