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Talk to someone about getting an assessment

Use the steps in this article to help you prepare for a conversation that might be difficult.

Woman encourages husband to get an assessment

If you’ve noticed that a friend or family member is showing thinking or other changes, encourage them to get an assessment.

Likewise, if a friend or family member comes to you concerned that they are showing thinking or other changes, be open to having a conversation about their concerns, and encourage them to get an assessment.

You might expect the person experiencing changes to be defensive or deny anything is wrong, or you might be worried about accidentally starting an argument. This can be a difficult conversation but ignoring it doesn’t make it go away or make it better.

The steps below will help you prepare for and manage the conversation.

Plan who, where and when

Consider the best timing and location to have the conversation. Try for a time when you are both at your best (for example, morning tea) and choose a place that is private, quiet, comfortable and safe (for example, at home).

You might decide to raise your concerns through several short conversations before bringing up the idea of asking a GP.

You might decide to have another family member or friend there.

Plan what to say

Tailor your approach to the person’s viewpoint. Your goal is to get them to ask a GP.

You might approach the topic by talking about your concerns for their wellbeing:

“I’m worried because you seem to be having trouble with your finances”

“I’m worried because you’ve missed a few appointments”.

This might be more persuasive than pointing out mistakes or deficiencies which might make the person defensive.

Some people with dementia may lose awareness of their problems (Anosognosia). If the person does not see or accept the changes that you see, you might decide to persuade them to see their GP for a general health assessment.

You might talk about seeing the GP about a health issue that the person themselves is concerned about:

“You mentioned that you’re feeling tired and all the housework exhausting. I’ve also noticed that you’re not cooking like you used to. I wonder if we should go and talk to your GP?”

You might couch the conversation in terms of getting treatments and services:

“There are medications that help with memory”

“Daphne’s GP gave her a referral for free bathroom rails and equipment.”

You might decide not to use the term “dementia” in these first few conversations if it might upset the person. You might wait for the doctor to give a diagnosis before using the term dementia.

Stay calm and supportive

Approach the conversation from the perspective of wanting to help the person, try to be empathetic and patient.

Think about your body language – make some eye contact, keep your arms open and ensure calm movements.

Avoid saying things which could be interpreted as critical or accusatory. Most people respond better to suggestions rather than being told what to do.

Stop if the person becomes upset

If the person becomes upset, embarrassed or defensive, and are not ‘hearing’ your message, stop. Reassure them that you care for, and support them.

It may be best to stop the conversation and try again another time. You might try and have another family member have the conversation.

Call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500 to get more advice about how to talk to the person experiencing changes.

You might also try and accompany the person to their GP and raise your concern then, or by telephoning their GP separately.

Be ready to counter dementia stigma

If the person expresses concerns, fears or myths about dementia, remind them that the changes might not be dementia.

Address their concerns using information from Facing your fears about a dementia diagnosis.

You could also explain the benefits of a timely dementia diagnosis.

Offer continuing support

Offer to make the appointment for them to see the GP and offer to go with them to the appointment.

What’s next?

In this article, you’ve learned some ways to encourage someone to get an assessment. Try next: