Background: From both clinical experience and research we learned that in complex progressive disorders such as dementia, diagnosis includes multiple steps, each with their own clinical and research characteristics. Discussion: Diagnosing starts with a trigger phase in which the GP gradually realizes that dementia may be emerging. This is followed by a disease-oriented diagnosis and subsequently a care -oriented diagnosis. In parallel the GP should consider the consequences of this process for the caregiver and the interaction between both. As soon as a comprehensive diagnosis and care plan are available, monitoring follows. Summary: We propose to split the diagnostic process into four diagnostic steps, followed by a monitoring phase. We recommend to include these steps when designing studies on screening, diagnosis and monitoring of patients with dementia and their families.