Symptoms and Diagnosis

Dementia is not a disease but a collection of symptoms that result from damage to the brain. There are many different types of dementia and the symptoms can vary. The most common symptoms of dementia are listed below:

  • Memory loss such a forgetting messages, remembering routes or names, and asking questions repetitively
  • Increasing difficulties with tasks and activities that require organisation
  • Difficulties with numbers and/or handling money in shops
  • Difficulties in finding the right words
  • Inappropriate behaviour
  • Loss of communication skills
  • Disorientation to time and place
  • Find it hard to follow conversations or programmes on TV
  • Neglect of personal care and safety
  • Hallucinations, paranoia, agitation

Early symptoms of dementia are often mild and may get worse very gradually. This means that the person with dementia and those around them may not notice these signs or take them seriously for some time. Also, people with dementia sometimes do not recognise that they have any symptoms.


Diagnosing dementia is often difficult, particularly in the early stages. If you are worried about dementia in relation to yourself, or someone you know, then you should speak to your GP. The GP may then make a referral to a specialist consultant.

Assessments can include conversations with the person being diagnosed and those close to them, a physical examination, memory tests and/or brain scans.

Becoming forgetful does not necessarily mean that you have dementia. Memory loss can be an effect of ageing. It can also be a symptom of stress or depression. In rare cases, dementia-like symptoms can be caused by vitamin deficiencies and/or a brain tumour.

A diagnosis of dementia can cause a range of emotions. The news might come as a shock, or, for some people, it may bring a sense of relief as it provides an explanation for the problems they have been experiencing. It can also have a big impact on family and friends.

If you, or someone close to you, have recently been diagnosed with dementia, you might be feeling angry, frustrated, worried, fearful, sad, embarrassed, lonely, guilty or even relieved. Everyone is different, but all these reactions are possible at different times and they are all normal. How you feel will probably vary from one day to the next.

Dementia Post Diagnosis Support

The service provides 1:1 support for people with a new diagnosis of dementia and their carers. Support will be provided by a named dementia link worker for the minimum of a year. Link working can be provided by Alzheimer Scotland or mental health staff, Services are based in Older Peoples Mental Health teams. Referral to the Post Diagnosis Service can be made through your GP.

Information on providers of dementia services is available.