Early Stage Alzheimer’s Disease

Understanding early stage Alzheimer’s disease can help you and your family properly prepare for the future. While everyone experiences Alzheimer’s differently, the beginning stage of this disease can progress for several years. Actually, Alzheimer’s disease starts well before any of the symptoms are apparent, which is detectable through new brain imaging technology.

As early stage Alzheimer’s sets in, your loved one may retain their ability to function independently. Your role as a caregiver will primarily be one of companionship and support. Most importantly, your role is to help your loved one plan for the future.  

Signs of Early Stage Alzheimer’s Disease

If your loved one is in the early stage of Alzheimer's disease, it may interfere with their ability to perform daily routine and complete certain tasks. They may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

Memory Loss May Manifest As:

  • Asking repeated questions
  • Telling the same story multiple times
  • Misplacing things

Disorientation Can Manifest Itself As:

  • Becoming lost in familiar places
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Difficulty keeping track of dates and appointments

Language Difficulties May Manifest As:

  • Difficulty finding the right words when speaking
  • Difficulty recalling names
  • Calling objects or people by the wrong name
  • Difficulty with written language

Personality Chances May Manifest As:

  • Becoming more mellow or withdrawn
  • Becoming more easily irritated or agitated
  • Becoming more self-centered or inconsiderate of others

Difficulty with Routines May Manifest As:

  • Difficulty handling household responsibilities, such as balancing the checkbook or preparing a meal
  • Difficulty organizing the steps involved in completing complex tasks
  • Forgetting what has already been done and what hasn’t

Declines in Hygiene May Manifest Itself As:

  • Becoming untidy in appearance; failing to groom appropriately
  • Forgetting to bathe regularly, or becoming resistant to personal hygiene tasks

What Can Caregivers Do for Early Stage Alzheimer’s Disease?

If your loved one is diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s disease, it doesn’t just affect them; it affects you and everyone who loves them. During this stage, many people consider themselves as a care partner because someone with early stage Alzheimer’s disease may not need as much assistance. You should work to familiarize yourself with the disease and work toward expectation setting.

Fortunately, an early stage diagnosis means you and your loved one may still be able to have conversations about the future together, including:

  • Legal conversations
  • Financial conversations
  • Long-term care planning
  • Potential available treatments
  • Possible participation in clinical treatments
  • Available resources at LIAF

By having these conversations now, you may be able to reduce the anxiety about the future, which can lead to better understanding of what's important to you and your family. LIAF is here to offer support, information, and answer to your questions.

Defining and Finding a New Balance

One of the biggest challenges caregivers or care partners face is not knowing the adequate level of assistance to provide. Your ability to provide support where needed may be valuable in helping your loved one develop additional coping strategies, which can help maximize their independence.

Although all relationships are different, striking a balance between independence and interdependence can help increase confidence for you and your loved one with Alzheimer’s. Use the following tips to help strike a balance and learn when your assistance is needed.

  • Have Conversations: The most effective way to determine when and where to provide support is to ask your loved one directly. Look to understand the frustrations they may experience and make a plan.
  • Keep Safety First: Is your loved one at risk for injuries when they perform particular tasks alone? If no immediate risk exists, you should encourage them to independently complete the task under your supervision.
  • Minimize Stress: Prioritize actions or tasks that do not result in additional stress. For instance, if you recognize balancing the checkbook causes additional stress, make sure you’re able to provide the necessary assistance and encouragement.
  • Stay Positive: Instead of assuming your loved one can’t do something, you should assume they can effectively complete the task. If you notice frustrations, recognize the cause of the angst prior to intervening.
  • Work Together: Discover tasks and activities you can do together and continue the conversation about how you’ll provide support. Continually check in by asking your loved one if your assistance level is adequate or comfortable for them.
  • Create Signals for Help: Create a phrase or signal that your loved one can use to signal for help. It’s about creating a sign your loved one is comfortable with, so they can signal when they need assistance.

In the end, the goal is to help your loved one retain their independence.

Consider Secondary Care Partners

The role of care partner isn’t limited to close family members, spouses, or partners. Care partners can also include friends, long-distance relatives, and neighbors. If you are caring for a loved one with early stage dementia as a remote care partner or secondary care partner, it can be especially difficult to understand the exact level of assistance required without direct supervision. Whenever you can, create and use your extended network of support to discuss insights or plan to meet your loved one with early stage Alzheimer’s disease in their own environment.

Contact LIAF for Early Stage Alzheimer’s Disease Help

An early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease means you have more freedom to plan for the future. And the Long Island Alzheimer's Foundation is here for you and your loved one — every step of the way. Our cutting-edge day program is designed to stimulate individuals with early stage Alzheimer's disease and extend their independence

To learn more about the services we provide for early stage Alzheimer’s disease, visit our Early Stage Program page, email us or call us at (516) 767-6856.

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease?