Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Tests used in diagnosing dementia

2-minute read

Doctors diagnose dementia using a number of different tests.

Personal history

A doctor may talk to the person about their medical history and gather information about any changes in their memory and thinking. Due to the progressive nature of the disease, it is usually helpful to have someone close to the person affected also help with the taking of their personal history.

The doctor may at this time suggest a simple cognitive test (see below). There are also several other types of test they can do to help diagnose dementia.

Physical examination

A doctor may examine the person for any physical causes of their symptoms.

Neurological examination

This will include tests of the senses and movement to rule out other causes of dementia and to identify medical conditions that may worsen the confusion associated with dementia.

Pathology tests

A doctor may request some blood tests and urine tests to make sure there are no other causes of the symptoms, such as an infection, anaemia, electrolyte imbalance, liver function, thyroid function, medication problems or a vitamin deficiency. These tests are called a dementia screen.

Neuropsychological testing

A neuropsychologist can identify which abilities the person still has and specific problem areas such as comprehension, insight and judgement.

Cognitive testing

A doctor may use tests to check the person's cognitive or thinking functions, such as memory, problem solving, counting and language skills, concentration and more. Initially, they may perform a short screening test that only takes a few minutes, such as a mini-mental status examination (MMSE), and might refer the person to other specialist doctors for more thorough cognitive tests.

Psychiatric testing

They may look for conditions that have similar symptoms to dementia, such as depression, and check whether the person has anxiety or delusions that may need to be treated.

X-rays and scans

A doctor may request standard x-rays or a CT, MRI or PET scan to look at the brain and rule out other conditions such as a tumour, strokes or hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain).

Visit the Dementia Australia website to find out more, or call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2021


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Better ways of diagnosing dementia | Dementia Australia

Developing better and more accurate methods of diagnosis is an important research focus. Currently there is no single test that can accurately diagnose dementia.  A detailed medical history, memory and thinking tests (called neuropsychological or cognitive tests), laboratory tests and brain scans are typically used in the diagnosis process.

Read more on Dementia Australia website

Early diagnosis of dementia | Dementia Australia

The importance of early diagnosis of dementia and information about the diagnosis process.

Read more on Dementia Australia website

Redefining what’s possible for older adults with hearing loss • NextSense

Clinical Professor Birman shares the importance of hearing tests for older people, including the link between dementia and hearing loss and how NextSense can help when hearing aids aren’t enough.

Read more on NextSense website

Lewy Body Disease | Dementia Australia

Lewy body disease is a common form of dementia, sharing many similarities with Alzheimer’s disease. Causes, diagnosis and progression are described here.

Read more on Dementia Australia website

I have dementia | Dementia Australia

I have dementia Dementia affects people in different ways and each person will find their own approach to managing changes associated with dementia. You may have received a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia and you may have many questions about what it means, what to do next and who can help. First steps after diagnosis

Read more on Dementia Australia website

Dementia: what is it? - MyDr.com.au

Dementia affects thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. This article describes some early signs of dementia, who gets dementia and emphasises the importance of a timely medical diagnosis.

Read more on myDr website

About younger onset dementia | Younger Onset Dementia Hub

Younger onset dementia is dementia in people under 65. Learn what it is, how it can go unnoticed and how early diagnosis can improve your life. Read on.

Read more on Dementia Australia website

Do you have memory loss or early dementia? | Dementia Australia

You may have come to this website because you are concerned about memory loss, may be worried about developing dementia or have had a recent diagnosis of dementia.

Read more on Dementia Australia website

Dementia Australia | Diagnosing dementia

Information about the early signs of dementia, the importance of early and correct diagnosis and the ways in which it is diagnosed. What are the early signs of dementia? The early signs of dementia are very subtle and vague and may not be immediately obvious. Early symptoms also vary a great deal. Usually though, people first seem to notice that there is a problem with memory, particularly in remembering recent events. Other common symptoms include:

Read more on Dementia Australia website

Down syndrome and Alzheimer's disease | Dementia Australia

Research has established a link between Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease. This page explains what is currently known about this link, and discusses the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in people with Down syndrome and some information about where to find additional support.

Read more on Dementia Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo