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Memory loss and dementia

Signs and symptoms of dementia

Dementia is a progressive disease of the brain and is not a natural part of ageing. It affects everyone differently so no two people with dementia are the same.

There are a number of warning signs to look out for, including:

  • memory loss – forgetting names, places, recent events or conversations
  • making decisions and solving problems is more difficult
  • difficulty completing everyday tasks
  • feeling confused, even when you are in a place you know
  • trouble understanding images and pictures
  • judging distances and not knowing it is you when you look in a mirror
  • problems with speaking or writing. Finding it hard to follow conversations
  • forgetting or losing things
  • changes in mood or personality – becoming more upset or angry

Recognising the signs and symptoms of dementia in yourself or a loved one could lead to an earlier diagnosis and then you can access dementia support services in Dorset. If you, or someone you know, is experiencing any of these warning signs, or if you have concerns about dementia, speak to your GP.

Becoming forgetful does not mean that you have dementia, memory loss can be a normal part of ageing, or the symptom of a medical condition such as a urinary tract infection (UTI). But if you're at all worried about yourself or someone else becoming forgetful or confused, speak to a GP or a Memory Support Advisor.

The Alzheimer's Society also has advice on what to do if you're worried about your memory or worried about someone else's memory.

NHS Choices has information about what to expect when you see your GP about dementia and how a diagnosis is made.

Learning disability

People with a learning disability are at greater risk of developing dementia. It also tends to occur at an earlier age (especially for those with Down's syndrome). The symptoms in the early stages can be different and difficult to spot and can progress more quickly.

For these reasons, it is even more important to get an early diagnosis. If you care for someone with a learning disability and are concerned about signs of memory loss or dementia, contact your GP or Memory Support and Advisory Service.

The Alzheimer's Society has more information about learning disabilities and dementia.

Staying independent

Staying in your own home

Being diagnosed with dementia does not mean you have to lose your independence. There are lots of things you can do to help you live safely in your own home for as long as possible.

Care calls provides a reminder and check-in service. They can also be used for medication and reminders such as locking the doors at night. A call is made to remind someone to take their medication, if they do not respond to the call, someone is informed to respond such as a neighbour, friend or member of the family. Referrals can be made by the user or family member via the Care calls website or telephone 0330 0588244.

Make your home dementia friendly

Alzheimer's Society have information about how to make your home dementia friendly. Sometimes simple changes to your home environment can make things easier, such as having better lighting and labelling cupboards.

Equipment and adapting your home

Equipment can help you to carry out daily tasks such as washing, dressing and eating.

Technology Enabled Care can help support you or a loved one experiencing memory loss and dementia. Equipment can sense risks such as smoke, floods, gas and there are a number of devices that can help with reminders, and helping you to be independent outside of your home.

The Alzheimer's Society has information and advice if you're not sure what equipment may help you.

Adapting your home may also help you. For example, putting handrails in the bathroom can make it easier to get in and out of the bath.

Alternatively, Contact Us for advice and guidance.

If you can't stay in your own home

We have information on housing options if living at home is not possible.

Eating and drinking

Dementia can make eating and drinking difficult for a number of reasons, including loss of appetite, forgetting to eat and being unable to recognise food. Alzheimer's Society has information and advice on how dementia affects eating and drinking and has practical tips for carers to help support someone to eat and drink well.

Getting help with everyday tasks

Someone who has dementia may forget to visit the toilet, or be unable to communicate their needs. Alzheimer's Society has advice on managing toilet problems and incontinence.

Personal care in the home provides options for extra support to help you.

Getting out and about

Many people with dementia continue to drive and travel after being diagnosed. Alzheimer's Society has information about driving, including how to inform the DVLA.

Wessex Driveability can help if you would like an assessment to make sure you're okay to drive and that you are still driving safely.

Alzheimer's Society has free 'helpcards' for people with dementia. These are cards you can carry with you when you're out and can make it easier to get help. They allow you to record your name and contact details, and the details of someone close to you who can be contacted if you need help.

Community transport schemes may help you if you no longer drive and can't use public transport.

Missing persons

Reporting missing persons with dementia is easy with the Herbert Protocol.  The 'Herbert Protocol' gives nationally recognised branding to our original 'Safe and Sound' Initiative. When a person goes missing, it is very distressing for family and friends and can be even more worrying when the missing person has dementia. Documents need to be completed and held by family/carers then handed over to police if a person goes missing. See the Dorset Police Missing Person with Dementia for more information.

Memory Support and Advisory Service

The Memory Support and Advisory Service is a commissioned service delivered by the Alzheimer's Society, it can help you to stay independent and support you by providing information, advice and guidance. The Alzheimer's Society works closely with GPs, the team that diagnose dementia and other partner organisations.

Your GP can refer you to the Memory Support and Advisory Service. You can also refer yourself to the service.

Memory Support and Advisory Service Contact Details:

Memory Assessment 

Referrals for memory assessment must come from the GP. The GP will complete routine blood screening (to rule out other reason for memory impairment). The Memory Support and Advisory Service will triage and complete basic memory assessment, for eligibility. If their screening tool (6-CIT) scores above 'normal' range, this is sent to the Memory Assessment Service for clinical assessment and diagnosis, including a CT brain scan. Consultant will confirm diagnosis. This process can take 4-6 months.

Post diagnostic support will come from the Memory Support and Advisory Service.
The Memory Assessment Service will only stay involved if a person is prescribed dementia medication.

Things to do

Keeping yourself occupied can help you to feel better, keep in touch with others and maintain your everyday skills. Alzheimer's Society has advice on how you can stay involved and active.

You can find details of activities near you in our directory.

Reminiscence groups are held in some libraries and can help you if you like to remember past events and chat with others.

Arts 4 Dementia have details of upcoming arts events and activities across Dorset.

Stepping into Nature run various dementia friendly activities across Dorset, including gentle walks and activities in beautiful natural spaces.

Stepping into Nature

Alzheimer's Society has advice on exercise and physical activity for those with dementia.

Dementia Friendly GP practices are expanding due to the success of the ‘i SPACE initiative’. This initiative encourages GP practices to identify dementia champions, give staff the skills to help people with dementia, work with carers, develop care plans and give ideas for dementia friendly environment. Further information can be found on the Wessex Academic Health Science Network or email

There are Memory Cafes held regularly across Dorset where people with dementia and their carers can socialise, gain peer support and feel less isolated. For details telephone 0300 1231916 or go to the Alzheimers Society website.

‘Singing for the Brain’ and ‘Melodiesfor Memory’ groups are available offering singing activities that are therapeutic, good for memory and brain activity and give people a sense of well-being. Telephone 0300 1231916 or go to the Alzheimers Society website.

Peer support groups for younger people with dementia and their carers are held in east and west Dorset which are more informal and more active. In Weymouth there is a carers support group. For more information go to the Alzheimers Society website.

Reading Well Books on prescription can help you to understand and manage your health and wellbeing using self-help reading. The books are available to borrow from your local library.

People living with dementia and their carers can get free access to Musica on Demand online music library. Email to sign up for the music library. 

Financial and legal

Check if you are entitled to any welfare benefits

Make sure you are claiming all the benefits you are entitled to.

For information about financial advice read our section on Financial help and advice.

Planning ahead and making decisions

If you have dementia, it's important to plan ahead and think about what will happen if you become unable to make decisions for yourself.

We have advice on mental capacity including how to set up Power of Attorney.

Alzheimer's Society has advice on legal and financial affairs.

You may want to think about making a will if you have not already done so.