Why is early diagnosis of Dementia important?

Early diagnosis of dementia is essential!  Most are unaware that dementia is treatable, by ‘treatable’ I do not mean curable but we can with expert help maintain an individual’s brain function for an extended period.  However, the earlier we start that treatment the better.  

In the wake of Covid, dementia diagnosis has dropped significantly.  The NHS England target for diagnosis is 66.7% in 2024, however, in the South-West of England our current diagnosis rate is less than 60% of those living with dementia.  More than 40% of individuals living with memory loss are never diagnosed and therefore have no access to treatment and will likely need expensive complex care sooner.

There are 3 crucial reasons why families must seek early dementia diagnosis. 

  1. The treatments we offer today are more effective the earlier you start.
  2. If you diagnose early and actively seek help, dementia care and support will cost the individual & family less.
  3. The earlier you diagnose the more willing the individual is to understand the diagnosis and agree to the interventions/treatments.


Early treatment is more effective

Despite decades of research there continue to be only 2 commonly utilised treatment options for Alzheimer’s (the most common type of dementia).  Both of these treatments are more effective in the early stages of the illness.

Alongside medical treatment, there is growing evidence that non-pharmacological treatment has a strong holistic impact.  Improving an individual’s function, delaying dementia decline and greatly improving their quality of life.  Once again, the sooner you can diagnose even mild cognitive decline and start some brain gym exercises or access a cognitive stimulation therapy the more effective the treatment.


Early diagnosis reduces long-term costs

The dementia journey lasts around 10 years but most of the associated costs of dementia come in the final few years.  The costs are associated with professional carers coming in to help with activities of daily living and the eventual need for 24-hour care.

Research shows that if you diagnose early and begin pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment the slower the dementia progresses and the longer an individual can continue to manage their activities of daily living.  

Research out of Holland suggests you can delay 24-hour care by a year or longer if you work with specialist dementia services (like The Ness) – saving, on average, around £30,000 per individual.

Finally, a diagnosis of dementia will make it easier to access some social care funding like attendance allowance and make accessing social support easier.  In the future, we believe a dementia diagnosis will allow VAT-exempt community care (but that battle is still being fought). 


Early diagnosis involves the person living with dementia and helps them to understand the diagnosis and agree to the interventions/treatments.

Dementia today still holds a stigma.  Many people are terrified of getting a dementia diagnosis and have seen their parents/family deteriorate with the illness.  

Unfortunately, today diagnosis remains low and takes time.  A diagnosis involves visits to a memory clinic, CT scans of the head and blood tests, this means that many people will get a diagnosis several years into their dementia illness.  By then their ability to understand the diagnosis, to accept the diagnosis and be a part of the treatment decisions is severely hampered.

The latest research suggests we are close to being able to diagnose Alzheimer’s with a simple blood test, this is incredibly exciting.  It could allow diagnosis and treatment to start years earlier which would allow the individual to work with specialist organisations, make plans, battle changes and most importantly take away the stigma associated with the D word.  It would significantly delay deterioration and potentially stop those with mild cognitive impairment from progressing to dementia.

We are not there yet but an early diagnosis does give control to the individual, allowing them to make their own choices and to understand the many ways we have in maintaining an individual’s function, memory and quality of life!

To conclude diagnosis is so important and I would urge all families and those worried about their memories to contact places like The Ness or their local memory clinics.  The more diagnosed individuals the greater the power to the individual and the greater the pressure on local government/NHS to help treat the illness.