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Getting the best out of GP and other health appointments
When someone lives with dementia, they often have frequent GP and other healthcare appointments. Our guide will help you get the most from every consultation.
When someone is diagnosed with dementia, their GP and local Memory Service are likely to be the main sources of information and support.
To make sure you get the best from these appointments, it’s a good idea to note down the questions you want to ask.
These will vary depending on things such as whether it’s the person’s first appointment with the professional; they have new symptoms; they are starting a new treatment; or they need additional tests and investigations, but may include:
- What type of dementia does the person have?
- What symptoms/changes in behaviour might you expect?
- Who will be the person’s main healthcare professional?
- How often will they see them?
- Who else will be involved in their care?
Questions about tests, including blood tests and scans
- What are the tests for?
- How should you book the tests?
- Does the person with dementia need to do anything to prepare?
- How and when will you get the results?
- Who should you contact if you don’t receive the results?
Questions about medication and other treatments
- Are there any medications for this type of dementia?
- Are there any side effects or risks?
- How effective is the treatment?
- How should the medication be taken (eg at a set time every day, or with a meal)?
- Is there anything the person should not do (eg drinking alcohol, driving)?
- How long will the person have to take it for?
- How will you know if it’s working?
- Is there anything else that might help – eg eating healthily, taking exercise, seeing a therapist, joining a support group?
Questions about what happens next
- Is there any written information you can take away?
- Where can you look for more information on dementia?
- Does the person need a follow-up appointment? If so, when?
- Will the person be referred to any other health or social care professionals, such as a social worker or occupational therapist?
- What should you do if the person’s condition gets worse?
- Are there any support groups or services for you and/or the person with dementia?
Health appointments are often short – especially GP appointments – so it’s helpful to make a note of the main points you want to discuss.
If there are more than two or three things, you could ask to book a double appointment.
You might want to bring a family member or friend with you for support – especially if you are the person with the dementia diagnosis, or if you need an interpreter (including a British Sign Language interpreter).
They can help explain what you want to get out of the appointment, make notes, and remind you of anything you don’t remember afterwards.
You can also make notes yourself or record the appointment on your phone – but do tell the health professional you are doing this.
If there is anything you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask the GP or healthcare professional to repeat what they have said, or explain it more clearly.
Before you leave, check that you’ve asked everything on your list, and that you know what should happen next, and when.
If there’s anything you still don’t understand – such as the name of a medication and how it works – and you’ve run out of time, ask the professional to write it down for you so you can look it up at home.
- Write down what you discussed and what happens next
- Make a note of anything you still don’t understand so you can look it up or ask at the next appointment
- Book any further appointments or tests and write them in your diary
There is often a great deal of information to take in at healthcare appointments, and lots of different names, dates and places to remember.
Our Practical guide to getting the most out of GP and other health appointments has space for you to record these important details. You can download a copy to fill in, or request a printed copy.
Our dementia specialist Admiral Nurses can advise you on getting the most from your health appointments or any other aspect of dementia. Please call our free Helpline on 0800 888 6678 (Monday-Friday 9am-9pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am-5pm) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you prefer, you can pre-book a phone or video appointment with an Admiral Nurse here.
Dementia UK resources:
After a diagnosis of dementia: next steps checklist
Getting the best out of a remote consultation
GP online services
Sources of support: practicalities
Lasting power of attorney
Advance Care Planning
NHS information on GP services
NHS information on referrals for specialist care
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Publication date: November 2020
Review date: November 2022