Your loved one is showing signs of memory loss. The family is concerned it might be Alzheimer’s. Can you know for sure?
There are many medical conditions and emotional experiences that can result in memory loss. That’s why memory loss needs to be brought to the attention of your loved one’s doctor. The doctor will conduct a thorough evaluation. The goal is to identify and possibly treat the cause(s) of memory loss. Sometimes during this, Alzheimer’s can be ruled out.
Alzheimer’s is a disease with many symptoms. Memory loss is just one. Something that makes Alzheimer’s tricky is that symptoms change over time. What makes it even trickier is that Alzheimer’s progresses at a different pace in each person.
Perhaps your loved one has yet to talk about their memory loss with their doctor. Or maybe your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Either way, you want to understand what symptoms come with Mild Stage Alzheimer’s. You also want to know what life may be like for your loved one and the person living in the home and partnering in their care.
People with Mild Stage Alzheimer’s may still be able to drive, work, and participate in activities. They may be able to function independently in many areas. They will require assistance in order to maintain their independence and safety.
Early Stage Alzheimer’s is the best time for families to prepare for the future. There is a lot to do right now. A lot that can make life better for your loved one, your caregiver and your whole family over the next decade or more of Alzheimer’s. Life only gets busier. Start today.
Mild Stage Alzheimer’s is classified as Stage 4 cognitive decline on the 7 stage Global Deterioration Scale (also known as GDS or the Reisberg Scale). Mild Stage Alzheimer’s (also known as Early Stage or Preclinical Alzheimer’s) is the first of three stages identified by the Alzheimer’s Association.
Most important is that you and your physician are aware of the symptoms experienced by your loved one. A proper diagnosis is essential when planning for the next stages.
Early Symptoms of Alzheimer's
New signs of inability to
- Make plans and stay organized
- Manage money and budget
- Read, write and work with numbers
- Mild forgetfulness
- No memory of recent events
- Searches for the right words
- Unable to put things in their usual places
- No memory of where they put something
- Unable to retrace steps to find things
- Accuses others of stealing
- Gets lost traveling in familiar & new places
- Driving impacted by difficulty judging distances and determining color or contrast
Alzheimer's or Normal Aging?
- Sometimes forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later
- Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook
- Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a TV show
- Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later
- Vision changes related to cataracts, glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration
- Sometimes having trouble finding the right word
- Misplacing things and retracing steps to find them
- Making a bad decision occasionally
- Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations
- Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.
Memory Loss Due to Medical Conditions or Emotional Experiences
It is very important to get a diagnosis when memory symptoms begin. There are many medical conditions and emotional experiences that can result in memory loss. A thorough medical diagnosis can calm fears and rule out Alzheimer’s.
Medical conditions that impact memory include side effects of medicine, infections, prescription drug interactions, stroke, tumor, Parkinson’s disease, sleep disturbances, non-Alzheimer’s dementia and others. Many of these are treatable and even reversible.
Emotional experiences can cause memory loss too. These include stress, anxiety, or depression. Any of these can make your loved one more forgetful. Forgetfulness causes loved ones to worry about dementia, especially Alzheimer’s. One example is the death of a spouse. This can make your loved one feel sad or lonely. Dealing with the life changes that come with a loss like this leaves some people feeling confused and forgetful. It is common to fear that this kind of forgetfulness might mean Alzheimer’s.
Early Signs of Alzheimer’s in your 40s and 50s
Alzheimer’s that is diagnosed in a loved one’s 40s or 50s is called Early Onset or Younger Onset Alzheimer’s disease. A very small number of people with Alzheimer disease have the Early-Onset type. Experts don't know what triggers the start of Alzheimer disease. For most people with Early-Onset Alzheimer disease, the symptoms and progression mirror those of other forms of Alzheimer disease.
Note: Early Onset Alzheimer’s is different from Early Stage Alzheimer’s. Early Onset refers to the person’s age when the disease is diagnosed. A disease is classified Early Onset because it began earlier in life than a disease in a person diagnosed at age 65 or later. A person diagnosed Early Onset Alzheimer’s at age 40 or 50 still moves through all three stages of Alzheimer’s (Early Stage, Moderate Stage and Late Stage).
Early Signs of Alzheimer’s in your 60s or later
Alzheimer’s disease most commonly affects older adults, aged 65 and older. Again, experts don't know what triggers the start of Alzheimer’s disease.
Examination and evaluation are essential in determining whether the dementia is the result of a treatable illness. In addition to a complete medical history and extensive neurological motor and sensory exam, diagnostic procedures for Alzheimer's disease may include a mental status test, neuropsychological testing, blood tests and / or urinalysis.
Impact on Caregiver and Family
Even the most independent person living with Alzheimer’s needs someone to partner with them to prolong their health and safety. This role is often filled by a spouse, life-partner or family member living in or near the home. It is important that this care partner attend medical appointments. It is valuable for both to talk openly about the experience of living with Alzheimer’s. This helps them figure out the balance between the loved one’s safety and their continued desire for independence.
Prepare for Moderate Alzheimer’s
Get ready for Moderate Alzheimer’s by ordering your copy of AlzTimeline: Patterns in Time today. AlzTimeline: Patterns in Time is the first resource that invites you to prepare for your family’s Alzheimer’s journey using a real family’s experience. This timeline tracks the impact of Alzheimer’s on one woman and her family. It reveals the choices she and her family made for her care. Most importantly, it challenges you to weigh the care choices you and your family will need to make.