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The Role of GPs

Why People Delay Speaking to Their GP

  • Being unsure of what is going on, trying to hide changes, making excuses
  • Not knowing how to raise concerns and fear of wasting the doctor’s time
  • Fear of stigma often reinforced in the media, and of others ‘finding out’
  • Fear of embarrassment and a fear of long-term dependence
  • A sense of not being listened to, and a perception that there is nothing that can be done to help

People who think they may have dementia or their families can be reluctant to go to the GP when they have health concerns.  The benefits of diagnosis are not clear to them. But appropriate support in the early stages can have a very significant impact on the degree to which someone will be able to manage the condition over time and Live Well with Dementia. Timely diagnosis enables people to Plan for the Future while they still have capacity to do so. It means they can get early and effective access to treatments and support to sustain their wellbeing and quality of life. Good post-diagnostic support helps people adjust to the diagnosis and its likely impact, both practically and emotionally. A Personal Support Plan can help you look at what supports you need to face your diagnosis of dementia and Maintain Your Independence.

For many people, taking the first step in approaching services to find out if they have dementia is extremely stressful. They experience anxiety and uncertainty about what will happen to them and what their future might look like if they receive a diagnosis of dementia.  The East Dunbartonshire Dementia Network can help allay these fears before a first visit to the GP and inform them about community support.

The GP and Diagnosis

The GP will listen to your concerns, give you a full physical examination, review your medicines, and rule out other causes.  Strokes, depression, excessive alcohol use, infections, hormone disorders, nutritional deficiencies and brain tumours can cause dementia-like symptoms.  Many of these conditions can be treated. You may be asked to undertake a simplified memory test in the surgery.  If appropriate your GP will make a referral to the local memory clinic for a full neuropsychological assessment.

Getting Help from your Doctor – a guide for people worried about their memory, people with dementia and carers by  Alzheimer Scotland.