Raising the issue of memory loss – and the possibility of dementia – can be a difficult thing to do. Someone who is experiencing these symptoms may be confused, unaware they have any problems, worried or in denial.
Before starting a conversation with someone you’re concerned about, the Alzheimer’s Society suggests that you ask yourself the following questions:
- Have they noticed the symptoms?
- Do they think their problems are just a natural part of ageing?
- Are they scared about what the changes could mean?
- Are you the best person to talk to them about memory problems?
- Do they think there won’t be any point in seeking help?
- What could be stopping them from seeing the GP (General Practictioner) about their memory problems?
- What approach has worked in the past to help persuade them to do something they were unsure about? Who could be the best person to approach the subject with them? Do they usually prefer to have a lot of information to understand all possibilities, or do they usually prefer to take things one step at a time? Might they find it reassuring to have someone offer to go to the GP with them?
- Remember that there isn’t one approach that is best for everyone, and there isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to discuss your concerns. You should also consider that they may not react how you expect them to. You should listen to how they respond, and you may need to adapt your approach.
When you do talk to them, choose a place that is familiar and non-threatening. And allow plenty of time so the conversation isn’t rushed.
You should also consider that they may not react how you expect them to. You should listen to how they respond, and you may need to adapt your approach.
What if they are still reluctant to see the GP?
If you don’t seem to be able to make progress in persuading them to see the GP, you could mention your concerns to the GP yourself. Patient confidentiality means the GP is not able to give out information about a patient, but they are able to receive information. It is though up to the individual GP whether they decide to take any action on information received.
You might start the conversation by gently asking the person if they’ve been feeling any different from usual or are struggling with anything. It can be helpful to start by showing that you are raising concerns because you care about them and want to offer support.