Early Stage of Alzheimers

The early stage of Alzheimers encompasses everything from normal cognitive function to mild cognitive impairment.

Knowing these three stages can help you understand what is happening to your loved one. A few tips for each stage are provided to help you deal with the disease progression.

It is important during the early stage of Alzheimers to keep documentation on what you are seeing. Your elderly family member may be able to significantly help with this process.

Stage One
Normal Cognitive Function

In the first stage of early Alzheimers, there is no change to normal cognitive function of the person. You will notice no signs or symptoms that the disease exists.

If you take your loved one into a medical professional, they will not be able to determine that there are any symptoms of Alzheimers.

Stage Two
Very Mild Cognitive Decline

During Stage 2, the person themselves may feel they are experiencing some memory lapses. For example, forgetting common words or being unable to locate a familiar object.

Medical professionals will unlikely be able to detect anything on an exam at this stage.

This early stage of Alzheimers is experienced only by the person suffering from it and others remain unaware unless they chose to share their concerns.

Strategies to Help

They may experience stress over their occasional memory losses that they share with you as a family member.

Try not to downplay their concerns. Just because you don't see it, doesn't mean it isn't happening.

You may find it best to encourage them to see their doctor during this stage. There may be other medical reasons for these brief memory glitches that can be addressed.

It is also a good time for their doctor to establish a baseline for further testing that will be done during later stages if indeed the occasional memory losses are related to Alzheimer's Dementia.

Stage Three
Mild Cognitive Impairment

It is during this early stage of Alzheimers that others become aware of the memory losses that the person is experiencing.

It may only be noticeable to very close family and friends and not to others. That is also why it is still difficult to diagnosis Alzheimer's at this stage. During a full, detailed medical exam, the physician may be able to detect some problems with memory and concentration.

Some areas of difficulty you may see during this stage include:

  • Trouble remembering names of new people they have recently met. This can also include new family members, such as grandchildren or new spouses.

  • Being unable to locate familiar objects

  • Word searching: Being unable to come up with the correct name for an object or naming an object incorrectly.

  • Problems with planning an organizing, such as paying bills or following a recipe

Strategies to Help

This is the stage where early detection can be made so it is very important to encourage your loved one to get into their doctor.

Review the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's , both independently and with your loved one.

Try to identify those issues that you are seeing and write down the information, including when you first started noticing them, how often they occur, and are they progressively getting worse.

Take this information along with you to your medical provider.

Watch your elderly loved one to guide you in how to respond. The idea is to lessen their stress, not necessarily correct them every time they are wrong.

A gentle reminder of the new grand baby's name, out of earshot of the rest of the family, can help lessen the anxiety associated with occasional memory losses.

If they are having trouble remembering to pay bills, ask if you can help. Or simpler yet, call them monthly and bring up bill paying in the conversation without directly saying "Did you pay your bills this month?"

If you get resistance from your loved one to make an appointment with their doctor, try to help them understand that there are treatments out there that can help delay the onset of new symptoms and the progression of previous ones.

But treatment only works if it is started!

At this point, their doctor will most likely do a complete medical, physical and psychological exam. Help your loved one get as much information together ahead of time and provide gentle reminders or transportation and company to follow up appointments.

This is a scary situation and is much easier if they are not going through it all alone.

Your company, support and understanding become invaluable right now.

I cannot emphasize enough that early detection and treatment during the early stage of Alzheimers are vital for both slowing the progression of the disease and improving quality of life.

Denial is common. This is a very frightening and devastating disease process.

But if treatment can be started early, the chances for a longer, quality life is very much improved.

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