Who hasn’t forgotten somebody’s name or where they’ve put their shopping list? If we forget things, it’s usually because we were thinking about something else, or were distracted by other people. It could also be due to tiredness or anxiety about something. As we get older, most of us find our memory is not as good as it used to be. However, it can be hard to tell if this is an early sign of dementia. Certainly becoming forgetful is a common symptom of dementia, but memory problems can be caused by other things too. In this section you can find out what to do if you’re concerned about your memory or the memory of someone you know. Dementia is about more than just being a bit forgetful Here are some common questions to ask yourself or the person you are concerned about.

Do you/they:

  • find it hard to remember everyday words or the names of friends?
  •  find it difficult to remember recent events but easily recall things from the past?
  • feel the forgetfulness is more than just the odd occasion? find it harder to carry out simple tasks?
  • find it hard to follow conversations or programmes on TV?
  • often lose a train of thought?
  • have difficulty remembering what’s just been heard, seen or read?
  •  notice people saying ‘you’ve already told me that’?
  • find it difficult to follow simple instructions?
  • feel confused even when in familiar places?
  • get anxious, depressed or angry about being forgetful?

Also, ask family and friends if they’ve noticed any behavioural changes. If the changes are more than just the ‘odd memory lapse’ it’s likely that they will have done. They will probably be worried and anxious to help. If any of this raises concerns, organise an appointment with your GP to discuss them. Talk to your GP When memory problems get worse and they affect daily life, it’s important to visit a GP for a checkup. It may not be dementia, so a GP can check if it is something that is easily treatable.

Conditions or illnesses that can cause memory problems include:

  • Chest infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Depression and stress
  • Side-effects of medication
  • Heart or thyroid problems

It’s a good idea to take a relative, friend or carer with you when you see your GP. Talk together about the things that are of concern before the appointment and jot down a list of questions to ask before going. This will help your GP and ensure that nothing is overlooked. Having someone else to make notes during the appointment will also be useful later. However, at some stage during the appointment the doctor may want to talk to their patient on their own